zora neale hurston
Hi LJ C 1 O
WITH A FOREWORD BY
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON
AND AN AFTERWORD BY
HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR.
PERENNIAL mK CLASSICS
A hardcover edition of this book was originally published by I. B. Lippincott, Inc
their eyjes were WATCHING god. Copyright €> 1937 by Zora Neale Hurston.
Renewed 1965 by John C. Hurston and Joe! Hurston. Foreword copyright © 1990
by Mary Helen Washington. Afterword, Selected Bibliography, and Chronology
copyright O 1990 by Henry Ix>uis Gales, Jr. All rights reserved. Printed in the
United States of America. No pare of this book may be used or reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quota-
tions embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address
Harper<>>!lins Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022.
First Perennial Library edition published 1990.
First Perennial Classics edition published 1998, Perennial (Classics are published by
HaiperPerermial, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataioging-in- Publication Data
Hurston, Zora Neale,
v lTicir eyes were watching God : a novel / Zora Neale Hurston ; with a
foreword by Mary Helen Washington and an afterword by Henry Louis
Gates, Jn— 1st Perennial Classics ed.
Includes bibliographical references.
Is Afro-American women — psychology -Fiction. 2. Self-realization —
Fiction. 3. Psychological action. L Title,
98 99 00 01 02 ❖/rrd-h 109 * 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To Henry Allen Moe
Table of Contents
Foreword by Mary Helen Washington ix
Their Eyes Were Watching God I
Afterword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 195
Selected Bibliography 207
In 1987, the fiftieth anniversary of the first publication 0/ Their
Eyes Were Watehing God, the University of Illinois Press inserted
a banner in the lower right-hand corner of the cover of their
anniversary reprint edition: "1987/50th Anniversary— STILL A
BESTSELLER!" The hack cover, using a quote from the Satur-
day Review by Doris Grumbach, proclaimed Their Eyes, "the
finest black novel of its time" and "one of the finest of all time."
Zora Neale Hurston would have been shocked and pleased, I
believe, at this stunning reversal in the reception of her second
novel, which for nearly thirty years after its first publication was
out of print, largely unknown and unread, and dismissed by the
male literary establishment in subde and not so subtle ways- One
white reviewer in 1937 praised the novel in the Saturday Review
as a "rich and racy love story, if somewhat awkward," but had
difficulty believing that such a town as Eatonville, "inhabited and
governed entirely by Negroes," could be real.
Black male critics were much harsher in their assessments of
the novel. From the beginning of her career, Hurston was
severely criticized for not writing fiction in the protest tradition.
Sterling Brown said in 1936 of her earlier book Mules and Men
that it was not bitter enough, that it did not depict the harsher
side of black life in the South, that Hurston made black southern
x Xfr Foreword
life appear easygoing and carefree. Alain Locke, dean of black
scholars and critics during the Harlem Renaissance, wrote in his
yearly review of the literature for Opportunity magazine that
Hurston's Their Eyes was simply out of step with the more serious
trends of the times. When, he asks, will Hurston stop creating
"these pseudo-primitives whom the reading public still loves to
laugh with, weep over, and envy," and "come to grips with the
motive fiction and social document fiction?" The most damaging
critique of all came from the most well-known and influential
black writer of the day, Richard Wright. Writing for the leftist
magazine New Masses, Wright excoriated Their Eyes as a novel
that did for literature what the minstrel shows did for theater,
that is, make white folks laugh. The novel, he said, "carries no
theme, no message, no thought," but exploited those "quaint"
aspects of Negro life that satisfied the tastes of a white audience.
By the end of the forties, a decade dominated by Wright and by
the stormy fiction of social realism, the quieter voice of a woman
searching for self-realization could not, or would not, be heard.
Like most of my friends and colleagues who were teaching
in the newly formed Black Studies departments in the late six-
ties, I can still recall quite vividly my own discovery of Their
Eyes. Somewhere around 1968, in one of the many thriving black
bookstores in the country — this one, Vaughn's Book Store, was
in Detroit—I came across the slender little paperback (bought
for 75 <t) with a stylized portrait of Janie Crawford and Jody
Starks on die cover — she pumping water at the well, her long
hair cascading down her back, her head turned just slighdy in his
direction with a look of longing and expectancy; he, standing at a
distance in his fancy silk shirt and purple suspenders, his coat over
one arm, his head cocked to one side, with the look that speaks
to Janie of far horizons.
What I loved immediately about this novel besides its high
poetry and its female hero was its investment in black folk tradi-
tions. Here, finally, was a woman on a quest for her own identity
and, unlike so many other questing figures in black literature, her
journey would take her, not away from, but deeper and deeper
into blackness, the descent into the Everglades with its rich black
soil, wild cane, and communal life representing immersion into
black traditions. But for most black women readers discovering
Their Eyes for the first time, what was most compelling was the
figure of )anie Crawford — powerful, articulate, self-reliant, and
radically different from any woman character they had ever
before encountered in literature. Andrea Rushing, then an
instructor in the Afro-American Studies Department at Harvard,
remembers reading Their Eyes in a women's study group with
Nellie McKay, Barbara Smith, and Gail Pemberton. "1 loved the
language of this book," Rushing says, "but mostly I loved it
because it was about a woman who wasn't pathetic, wasn't a
tragic mulatto, who defied everything that was expected of her,
who went off with a man without bothering to divorce die one
she left and wasn't broken, crushed, and run down."
The reaction of women all across the country who found
diemselves so powerfully represented in a literary text was often
direct and personal, janie and Tea Cake were talked about as
though they were people the readers knew intimately Sheriey
Anne Wiliiams remembers going down to a conference in Los
Angeles in 1969 where the main speaker, Toni Cade Bambara,
asked the women in the audience, "Are the sisters here ready for
Tea Cake?" And Williams, remembering diat even Tea Cake had
his flaws, responded, "Are the Tea Cakes of the world ready for
us?" Williams taught Their Eyes for the first time at Cal State
Fresno, in a migrant farming area where the students, like the char-
acters m Their Eyes, were used to making their living from the laud.
"For the first time^ Williams says, "they saw themselves in these
xii jfiF Foreword
characters and they saw their lives portrayed with joy," Rnshing's
comment on the female as hero and Williams's story about the joy-
ful portrayal of a culture together epitomize what critics would
later see as the novel's unique contribution to black literature: it
affirms black cultural traditions while revising them to empower
By 1971, TTtdr Eyes w%$ an underground phenomenon, sur-
facing here and there, wherever there was a growing interest in
African-American studies— and a black woman literature teacher
Alice Walker was teaching the novel at Wellesley in the 1971-72
school year when she discovered that Hunton was only a footnote
in the scholarship, Reading in an essay by a white folkiorist that
Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave, Walker decided that
such a fete was an insult to Hurston and began her search for the
grave to put a marker on it- In a personal essay, "In Search of Zora
Nealc Hurston," written for Ms. magazine. Walker describes going
to Florida and searching through waist-high weeds to find what
she thought was Hurston's grave and laying on it a marker
inscribed "Zora Neale Hurston/' A Genius of the South'/Novelist/
Folklorist/Anthropologist/1901-1960, , ' With that inscription
and that essay, Walker ushered in a new era in the scholarship on
Their Eyes Were Watching God,
By 1975, Their Eyes, again out of print, was in such demand
that a petition was circulated at the December 1975 convention of
the Modern Language Association (MLA) to get the novel back
into print, In that same year at a conference on minority literature
held at Yale and directed by Michael Cooke, the few copies of Their
Eyes that were available were circulated for two hours at a time to
conference participants, many of whom were reading the novel for
the first time. In March of 1977, when the MI A Commission on
Minority Groups and the Study of Language and Literature pub-
lished its first list of out of print books most in demand at a national
Foreword ^B^ xiii
lcvel > the program coordinator, Dexter Fisher, wrote: "Their Eyes
Were Watching God is unanimously at the top of the list. "
Between 1977 and 1979 the Zora Neale Hurston renais-
sance was in Ml bloom. Robert Hemcnway's biography, Zora
Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, published in 1977, was a
runaway bestseller at the December 1977 MIA convention.
The new University of Illinois Press edition of "Their Eyes, pub-
lished a year after the Hemenway biography in March of 1978,
made the novel available on a steady and dependable basis for
the next ten years. I Love Myself When I Am Laughing . . . And
"Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora
Neale Hurston Reader, edited by Alice Walker, was published by
the Feminist Press in 1979. Probably more than anything else,
these three literary events made it possible for serious Hurston
scholarship to emerge.
But die event that for me truly marked the beginning of the
third wave of critical attention to Their Eyes took place in Decern ber
1979 at the MIA convention in San Francisco in a session apdy
tided "Traditions and Their Transformatioas in Afro-American
Letters " chaired by Robert Stepto of Yaie with John Callahan of
Ixwis and Clark College and myself (then at the University of
Detroit) as the two panelists. Despite the fact that the session was
scheduled on Sunday morning > the last session of the entire con-
vention, the room was packed and the audience unusually attentive.
In his comments at the end of the session, Stepto raised the issue
diat has become one of the most highly controversial and hody con-
tested aspects of the novel, whether or not Janie is able to achieve
her voice in Their Eyes. What concerned Stepto was the courtroom
scene in which Janie is called on not only to preserve her own life
and liberty but also to make the jury, as well as all of as who hear her
tale, understand the meaning of her life with Tea Cake. Stepto
found Janie curiously silent in this scene, with Hurston telling the
xiv fjp Foreword
story in omniscient third person so that we do not hear Janie
speak — at least not in her own first-person voice. Stepto was quite
convinced (and convincing) that the frame story in which Janie
speaks to Pheoby creates only the illusion that Janie has found her
voice, that Hurston's insistence on telling Janie's story in the third
person undercuts her power as speaker. While the rest of us in the
room struggled to find our voices, Alice Walker rose and claimed
hers, insisting passionately that women did not have to speak when
men thought they should, that they would choose when and where
they wish to speak because while many women had found their own
voices, they aiso knew when it was better not to use it. What was
most remarkable about the energetic and at times heated discussion
that followed Stepto's and Walker's remarks was the assumption of
everyone in that room that Their Eyes was a shared text, that a novel
that just ten years earlier was unknown and unavailable had entered
into critical acceptance as perhaps the most widely known and the
most privileged text in the African -American literary canon.
That MLA session was important for another reason. Walker's
defense of Janie's choice (actually Hurston's choice) to be silent in
the crucial places in the novei turned out to be the earliest feminist
reading of voice in Their Eyes, a reading that was later supporte d by
many other Hnrston scholars. In a recent essay on Their Eyes, and
the question of voice, Michael Awkward argues that Janie's voice at
the end of the novel is a communal one, that when she tells Pheoby
to tell her story ("You can tell *cm what Ah say if you wants to. Dat's
just dc same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mout") she
is choosing a collective rather than an individual voice, demonstrat-
ing her closeness to the collective spirit of the African-American oral
tradition. Thad Davis agrees with this reading of voice, adding that
while Janie is the teller of the tale, Pheoby is the bearer of the tale.
Davis says that Janie's experimental life may not allow her to effect
changes beyond what she causes in Pheoby's life; but Pheoby,
standing within the traditional roic of women, is the one most
suited to take the message back to the community.
Although, like Stepto, I too am uncomfortable with the
absence of Janie's voice in the courtroom scene, I think that silence
reflects Hurston's discomfort with the model of the male hero who
asserts himself through his powerful voice. When Hurston chose a
female hero for the story she faced an interesting dilemma: the
female presence was inherently a critique of the male-dominated
folk culture and therefore could not be its heroic representative.
When Janie says at die end of her story that "talkin* don't amount
to much" if it's divorced from experiencc > she is testifying to the
limitations of voice and critiquing the cultu re that celebrates orality
to the exclusion of inner growth. Her final speech to Phcoby at the
end of Their Eyes actually casts doubt on the relevance of oral speech
and supports Alice Walker's claim that women's silence can be
intentional and useftil:
"Course, taikifi' don't amount tub uh hill uh beans when yuh
can't do nothin' else . . . Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh
know there. Yo papa and yo mama and nobody else can't tell
yuh and show yuh. Two things everybody's got tuh do nih
theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God> and they got tuh find out
about iivin* nih theyselves.
The language of the men in Their Eyes is almost always
divorced from any kind of interiority, and the men are rarely shown
in the process of growth. Their talking is either a game or a
method of exerting power. Janie's life is about the experience of
relationships, and while Jody and Tea Cake and all the other talk-
ing men are essentially static characters, Janie and Pheoby pay
closer attention to their own inner life — to experience — because it
is the site for growth.
xvi jfip Foreword
If there is anything the outpouring of scholarship on Their Eyes
teaches us, it is that this is a rich and complicated text and that each
generation of readers will bring something new to our under-
standing of it. If we were protective of this text and unwilling to
subject it to literary analysis during the first years of its rebirth, that
was because it was a beloved text for those of us who discovered in
it something of our own experiences, our own language, our own
history In 1989, 1 find myself asking new questions about Their
Eyes-Questions about Hurston's ambivalence toward her female
protagonist, about its uncritical depiction of violence toward
women, about the ways in which Janie's voice is dominated by
men even in passages that arc about her own inner growth. In
Their Eyes, Hurston has not given us an unambiguously heroic
female character She puts Janie on the track of autonomy, self-
realization, and independence, but she also places Janie in the posi-
tion of romantic heroine as the object of Tea Cake's quest, at times
so subordinate to the magnificent presence of Tea Cake that even
her interior life reveals more about him than about her What Their
Eyes shows us is a woman writer struggling with the problem of the
questing hero as woman and the difficulties in 1937 of giving a
woman character such power and such daring.
Because Their Eyes has been in print continuously since 1978,
it has become available each year to thousands of new readers. It is
taught in colleges all over the country, and its availability and pop-
ularity have generated two decades of the highest level of scholar-
ship. But I want to remember the history that nurtured this text
intx) rebirth, especially the collective spirit of the sixties and seven-
ties that galvanized us into political action to retrieve the lost works
of black women writers. There is a lovely symmetry between text
and context in the case of Their Eyes: as Their Eyes affirms and eel-
ebrates black culture it reflects that same affirmation of black cul-
ture that rekindled interest in the text; Janie telling her story to a
listening woman friend, Pheoby, suggests to me ali those women
readers who discovered their own tale in Janie's story and passed it
on from one to another; and certainly, as the novel represents a
woman redefining and revising a male-dominated canon, these
readers have, like Janie, made their voices heard in the world of let-
ters> revising the canon while asserting their proper place in it.
Mary Helen Washington
Ships at a distance have every manH wish on board. For some they
come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon,
never out of sigh t, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes
away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is
the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember,
and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the
truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.
So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back
from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with fiiends at
the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the
bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment.
The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The
sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the
time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to
hear things and talk. These sitters had been tonguelcss, earless,
eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had
occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were
gone, so the skins felt powerM and human. They became lords
of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their
mouths. They sat in judgment.
2 Jfr Zora Ncale Humozi
Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy
they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back
parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning
statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was
mass cruelty, A mood come alive. Words walking without masters;
walking altogether like harmony in a song,
"What she doin coming back here in dem overhalis? Can't
she find no dress to put on? — Where's dat blue satin dress she left
here in? — Where all dat money her husband took and died and
left her? — What dat ole forty year ole 'oman doin' wid her hair
swingin 1 down her back lak some young gal? — Where she left dat
young lad of a boy she went off here wid?— Thought she was
going to marry? — Where he left her? — What he done wid all her
money? — Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain't even got
no hairs— why she don't stay in her class? — "
When she got to where they were she turned her face on the
bander log and spoke. They scrambled a noisy "good evenm'"
and left their mouths setting open and their ears full of hope. Her
speech was pleasant enough, but she kept walking straight on to
her gate. The porch couldn't talk for looking.
The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits
in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her
waist and unraveling in the wineflike a plume; then her pugna-
cious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men,
were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The
women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them
away for remembrance. I, was a weapon Us. her s^ength and
if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she
might fell to their level some day.
But nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody even thought to
swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her.
Pear! Stone opened her mouth and laughed real hard because she
Their Eyes Were Watching God Jfr 3
didn't know what else to do. She fell all over Mrs. Sumpkins while she
laughed. Mrs. Sumpkins snorted violently and sucked her teeth.
"Humph! Tall let her worry yuh. You ain't like me. Ah ain't
got her to study 'bout. If she ain't got manners enough to stop
and let folks know how she been rnakin' out, let her g'wan!"
"She ain't even worth taikin' after," Luiu Moss drawled
through her nose. "She sits high, but she looks low. Dat's what
All say 'bout dese ole women runnin' after young boys."
Pheoby Watson hitched her rocking chair forward before she
spoke. "Weil, nobody don't know if it's anything to tell or not
Me, Aii'm her best friend, and Ah don't know."
"Maybe us don't know into things lak you do, but we all
know how she went 'way from here and us sho seen her come
back. 'Tain't no use in your tryin' to cloak no ole woman lak
Janie Starks, Pheoby, friend or no friend."
"At dat she ain't so ole as some of y'all dat's talking."
"She's way past forty to my knowledge, Pheoby."
"No more'n forty at de outside."
"She's 'way too old for a boy like Tea Cake."
"Tea Cake ain't been no boy for some time. He's round
thirty his ownself."
"Don't keer what it was, she could stop and say a few words
with us. She act like we done done something to her," Pearl
Stone complained. "She de one been doin' wrong."
"You mean, you mad 'cause she didn't stop and tell us all her
business. Anyhow, what you ever know her to do so bad as y'all
make out? The worst thing Ah ever knowed her to do was taking
a few years offa her age and dat ain't never harmed nobody. Y'all
makes me tired. De way you taikin' you'd think de folks in dis
town didn't do nothin' in de bed 'cept praise de Lawd. You have
to 'scusc me, 'cause Ah'm bound to go take her some supper."
Pheoby stood up sharply.
4 4fe» Zora Neaie Hurston
"Don't mind us," Lulu smiled, "just go right ahead, us can
ruindyo' house for you till you git back. Mah supper is done. You
bettah go see how she feel, You kin let de rest of us know."
"Lawd," Pearl agreed, "Ah done scorched-up dat lil meat
and bread too long to talk about. Ah kin stay Vay from home
long as Ah please. Mah husband ain^t fcssy."
"Oh, er, Pheoby, if youse ready to go, Ah could walk over dere
wid you," Mrs, Sumpkins volunteered, "It's sort of duskin' down
dark, De booger man might ketch yuh,"
"Naw, Ah thank yuh, Nothin' couldn't ketch me dese few steps
Ah'm goin\ Anyhow mah husband tell me say no fim; class booger
would have me, If she got anything to tell yuh, you'll hear it."
Pheoby hurried on off widi a covered bowl in her hands. She
left the porch pelting her back with unasked questions. They
hoped the answers were cruel and strange, When she arrived at
the place, Pheoby Watson didn't go in by the front gate and
down the palm walk to the front door. She walked around the
fence corner and went in the intimate gate with her heaping plate
of mulatto rice, Janie must be round that side.
She found her sitting on the steps of the back porch with the
lamps all filled and the chimneys cleaned,
"Hello, Janie, how you comin'?"
"Aw, pretty good> Ah'm trykf to soak some uh de tiredness
and de dirt outa mah feet," She laughed a little,
"Ah see you is, Gal, you sho looks good. You looks like youse
yo' own daughter, w They both laughed, "Even wid dem overhalls
on, you shows yo' womanhood,"
"G'wan! G'wan! You must think Ah brought yuh something
When Ah ain't brought home a thing but mahself."
"Dat's a gracious plenty, Yo' friends wouldn't want nothin'
"Ah takes dat flattery oflfa you> Pheoby, 'cause Ah know it's
Their Eyes Were Watching God Vtr 5
from dc heart" Janie extended her hand. "Good Lawd, Pheoby!
ain't you never goin' tuh gimme dat til rations you brought me? Ah
ain't had a thing on mah stomach today exceptin' mah hand. " They
both laughed easily. "Give it here and have a seat."
"Ah knowed you'd be hongry. No time to be huntin' stove
wood after dark. Mah mulatto rice ain't so good dis time. Not
enough bacon grease, but Ah reckon it'll kill hongry."
"Ah'll tell you in a minute," Janie said, lifting the cover. "Gal,
it's too good! you switches a mean fenny round in a kitchen."
"Aw, dat ain't much to eat, Janie. But Ah'm liable to have
something sho nuff good tomorrow, 'cause you done come."
Janie ate heartily and said nothing. The varicolored cloud dust
that the sun had stirred up in the sky was settling by slow degrees.
"Here, Pheoby, take yo' ole plate. Ah ain't got a bit of use for
a empty dish. Dat grub sho come in handy."
Pheoby laughed at her friend's rough joke. "Youse just as
crazy as you ever was."
"Hand me dat wash-rag on dat chair by you, honey. Lemmc
scrub mah feet." She took the cloth and rubbed vigorously.
Laughter came to her from the big road.
"Well, Ah see Mouth -Almighty is still sittin' in de same place.
And Ah reckon they got me up in they mouth now. "
"Yes indeed. You know if you pass some people and don't
speak tuh suit 'em dey got tuh go way back in yo' life and see
whut you ever done. They know mo' 'bout yuh than you do yo'
self. An envious heart makes a treacherous ear. They done 'heard'
'bout you just what they hope done happened."
"If God don't think no mo' 'bout 'em then Ah do, they's a
lost ball in de high grass."
"Ah hears what they say 'cause they just will collect round mah
porch 'cause it's on de big road. Mah husband git so sick of 'cm
sometime he makes 'em all git for home."
6 ^Sp Zora Ncaie Hurston
"Sam is right too. They just wearin' out yo' sittin' chairs."
"Yeah, Sarn say most of 'em goes to church so they'll be sure to
rise in Judgment. Dat's de day dat every secret is s'posed to be made
known. They wants to be there and hear it aU?
"Sam is too crazy! You can't stop laughtn' when youse round
"Uuh hunh. He says he aims to be there hisself so he can find
out who stole his corn-cob pipe."
"Pheoby, dat Sam of your'n just won't quit! Crazy thing!"
"Most of desc zigaboos is so het up over yo' business till they
liable to hurry theyself to Judgment to find out about you if they
don't soon know. You better make haste and tell 'em 'bout you
and Tea Cake gittin' married, and if he taken all yo' money and
went off wid some young gal, and where at he is now and where
at is all yo' clothes dat you got to come back here in overhalls."
"Ah don't mean to bother wid tellin' 'em nothin\ Pheoby.
'Tain't worth de trouble. You can tell 'em what Ah say if you wants
to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's
"If you so desire Ah '11 tell 'em what you tell me to tell 'em."
"To start off wid, people like dem wastes up too much time
puttin' they mouf on things they don't know nothin' aboiit. Now
they got to look into me loving Tea Cake and see whether it was
done right or not! They don't know if life is a mess of corn-meal
dumplings, and if love is a bed-quilt!"
"So long as they get a name to gnaw on tiiey don't care whose
it is, and what about, 'specially if they can make it sound like evil."
"If they wants to see and know, why they don't come kiss and
be kissed? Ah could then sit down and tell 'em things. All been a
delegate to de big 'ssociation of life. Yessuh! De Grand Lodge, de
big convention of livin' is just where Ah been dis year and a half y all
ain't seen me."
Their Eyes Were Watching God &r 7
They sat there in the fresh young darkness close together.
Pheoby eager to feel and do through Jank, but hating to show her
zest for fear it might be thought mere curiosity, Janic full of that
oldest human longing — self revelation, Pheoby held her tongue for
a long tirne> but she couldn't help moving her feet, So Janie spoke,
"They don't need to worry about me and my overhalls long
as Ah still got nine hundred dollars in de bank, Tea Cake got me
into wearing 'em — following behind him, Tea Cake ain't wasted
up no money of mine, and he ain't left me for no young gal, nei-
ther. He give me every consolation in de world, He'd tell 'em so
too, if he was here, If he wasn't gone,"
Pheoby dilated all over with eagerness, "Tea Cake gone?"
"Yeah, Pheoby, Tea Cake is gone, And dat's de only reason
you sec me back here — cause Ah ain't got nothing to make me
happy no more where Ah was at, Down in the Everglades there,
down on the muck."
"It's hard for me to understand what you mean, de way you
tell it. And then again Ah'm hard of understandin' at times,"
"Naw, 'tain't nothin' lak you might think, So 'tain't no use in
me telling you somethin' unless Ah give you de understandin' to
go 'long wid it, Unless you see de far, a mink skin ain't no differ-
ent from a coon hide, Ix>oka heah, Pheoby, is Sam waitin' on you
for his supper?"
"It's all ready and waitin', If he ain't got sense enough to eat
it, dat's his hard luck,"
"Well then, we can set right where we is and talk, Ah got the
house all opened up to let dis breeze get a little catchin'.
"Pheoby, we been kissin' -friends for twenty years, so Ah depend
on you for a good thought, And Ah'm talking to you from dat
Time makes everything old so die kissing, young darkness
became a monstropolous old thing while Janie talked.
Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered^
things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in
"Ah know exactly what Ah got to tell yuh, but it's hard to
know where to start at.
"Ah ain't never seen mah papa. And Ah didn't know 'im if
Ah did. Mah mama neither. She was gone from round dere long
before Ah wuz big enough tuh know. Mah grandma raised me.
Mah grandma and de white folks she worked wid. She had a
house out in de back -yard and dat's where Ah wuz born. They
was quality white folks up dere in West Florida. Named Wash-
burn. She had four gran'chiilun on de place and all of us played
together and dat's how come Ah never called mah Grandma
nothin' but Nanny, 'cause dat's what everybody on de place
called her. Nanny used to ketch us in our devilment and lick every
youngun on de place and Mis' Washburn did de same. Ah reckon
dey never hit us ah lick amiss 'cause dem three boys and us two
girls wuz pretty aggravating Ah speck.
"Ah was wid dem white chiUun so much till Ah didn't know
Ah wuzn't white till Ah was round six years old. Wouldn't have
found it out then > but a man come long takin' pictures and with-
Their Eyes Were Watching God <Qp 9
out askin' anybody, Shelby, dat was de oldest boy, he told him to
take us. Round a week later de man brought de picture for Mis'
Washburn to see and pay him which she did, then give us all a
"So when we looked at de picture and everybody got pointed
out there wasn't nobody left except a real dark little girl with long
hair standing by Eleanor. Dat's where Ah wuz s'posed to be, but
Ah couldn't recognize dat dark chile as me. So Ah ast, 'where is
me? Ah don't sec inc.'
"Everybody laughed, even Mr. Washburn. Miss Nellie, de
Mama of de chilhm who come back home after her husband
dead, she pointed to de dark one and said, 'Dat's you, Alphabet,
don't you know yo' ownsclfi'
tt Dey all useter call me Alphabet 'cause so many people had
done named me different names. Ah looked at de picture a long
time and seen it was mah dress and mah hair so Ah said:
U4 Aw, aw! Ah'm colored! 9
u Den dey all laughed real hard. But before Ah seen de pic-
ture Ah thought Ah wuz just like de rest.
"Us lived dcre bavin' fan till de chiliun at school got to
tcasin' me 'bout livin' in de white folks' back-yard. Dere wuz uh
knotty head gal name Mayrelia dat usctcr git mad every rime she
look at me. Mis' Washburn usetcr dress me up in all de clothes
her gran'chiiiun didn't need no mo' which still wuz better'n
whut de rest uh de colored chiliun had. And then she useter put
hair ribbon on mah head fah me tuh wear. Dat useter rile
Mayrelia uh lot. So she would pick at me all de time and put some
others up tub do de same. They'd push me 'way from de ring
plays and make out they couldn't play wid nobody dat lived on
premises. Den they'd tell me not to be takin' on over mah looks
'cause they mama told 'em 'bout de hound dawgs huntin' mah
papa all night long. 'Bout Mr. Washburn and de sheriff puttin* de
10 4Bp Zora Neak Humor*
bloodhounds on de trail tuh ketch mah papa for whut he done
tuh mah mama. Dey didn't tell about how he wiiz seen tryin' tuh
git in touch wid mah mama later on so he could marry hen Naw>
dey didn't talk dat part of it atalL Dey made it sound real bad so
as tuh crumple mah feathers. None of *em didn't even remember
whut his name wuz, but dey all knowed de bloodhound part by
heart. Nanny didn't love tuh see me wid mah head hung down,
so she figgered it would be mo' better ftih me if us had uh house.
She got de land and everything and then Mis' Washburn helped
out uh whole heap wid things."
Pheoby's hungry listening helped Janie to tell her story. So
she went on thinking back to her young years and explaining
them to her friend in soft, easy phrases while all around the
house, the night time put on flesh and blackness.
She thought awhile and decided that her conscious life had
commenced at Nanny's gate. On a late afternoon Nanny had
called her to come inside the house because she had spied Janie
letting Johnny Taylor kiss her over the gatepost.
It was a spring afternoon in West Florida. Janie had spent
most of the day under a blossoming pear tree in the back-yard.
She had been spending every minute that she could steal from
her chores under that tree for the last three days. That was to
say, ever since the first tiny bloom had opened. It had called her
to come and gaze on a mystery From barren brown stems to
glistening leaf-buds; from the leaf-buds to snowy virginity of
bloom. It stirred her tremendously. How? Why? It was like a
flute song forgotten in another existence and remembered
again. What? How? Why? This singing she heard that had noth-
ing to do with her ears. The rose of the world was breathing out
smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and
caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely
felt matters tiiat had struck her outside observation and buried
Their Eyes Were Watching God ffr 11
themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and quested about
She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in
the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the pant-
ing breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to
her T She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom;
the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the
ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in
every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage!
She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a
pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid.
After a while she got up from where she was and went over the
little garden field entire. She was seeking confirmation of the voice
and vision, and everywhere she found and acknowledged answers,
A personal answer for all other creations except herself. She felt an
answer seeking her, but where? When? How? She found herself at
the kitchen door and stumbled inside. In the air of the room were
flics tumbling and singing, marrying and giving in marriage. When
she reached the narrow hallway she was reminded that her grand-
mother was home with a sick headache. She was lying across the
bed asleep so Janic tipped on out of the front door, Oh to be a pear
tree — any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the begin-
ning of the world! She was sixteen. She had glossy leaves and
bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to
elude her. Where were the singing bees for her? Nothing on the
place nor in her grandma's house answered her, She searched as
much of die world as she could from the top of the front steps and
then went on down to the front gate and leaned over to gaze up
and down the road, Looking, waiting, breathing short with impa-
tience, Waiting for the world to be made.
Through pollinated air she saw a glorious being coming up
the road. In her former blindness she had known him as shiftless
12 Zora Ncaie Hurston
Johnny Taylor, tall and lean. That was before the golden dust of
pollen had beglamored his rags and her eyes.
In the last stages of Nanny's sleep, she dreamed of voices.
Voices far-off but persistent ? and gradually coming nearer. Janie*s
voice. Janic talking in whlspery snatches with a male voice she
couldn't quite place. That brought her wide awake. She bolted
upright and peered out of the window and saw johnny Taylor
lacerating her Janie with a kiss.
The old woman's voice was so lacking in command and
reproof, so full of crumbling dissolution, — that Janic half
believed that Nanny had not seen her. So she extended herself
outside of her dream and went inside of the house. That was the
end of her childhood.
Nanny's head and race looked like the standing roots of some
old tree that had been torn away by storm. Foundation of ancient
power that no longer mattered. The cooling palma christi leaves
that Janie had bound about her grandma's head with a white rag
had wilted down and become part and parcel of the woman. Her
eyes didn't bore and pierce. They diffused and melted Janie, the
room and the world into one comprehension.
"Janie, youse uh ? oman, now, so—"
"Naw, Nanny, naw Ah ain't no real 'ornan yet."
The thought was too new and heavy for Janie. She fought it
Nanny closed her eyes and nodded a slow* weary affirmation
many times before she gave it voice.
"Yeah, Janie, youse got yo' womanhood on yuh. So Ah mont
cz well tell yuh whut Ah been savin' up for uh spell. Ah wants to
see you married right away."
"Me, married? Naw, Nanny, no ma'am! Whut Ah know
'bout uh husband?"
Their Eye* Were Watching God 4^ 13
"Whut Ah seen just now is plenty for me, honey, Ah don't
want no trashy nigger, no breath -and-britches, lak johnny Taylor
usin' yo > body to wipe his foots on."
Nanny's words nude Janie's kiss across the gatepost seem
like a manure pile after a rain.
"Look at me, Janie. Don't set dere wid yo' head hung down.
Look at yo' ole grandma!" Her voice began snagging on the
prongs of her feelings. "Ah don't want to be taikin* to you lak dis.
Fact is Ah done been on mah knees to mah Maker many's de time
askin > please— for Him not to make de burden too heavy for me to
"Nanny, Ah just — Ah didn't mean nothin' bad."
"Dat's what makes me skeered. You don't mean no harm.
You don't even know where harm is at. Ah'm ole now. Ah can't
be always guidin' yo' feet from harm and danger. Ah wants to see
you married right away."
"Who Ah'm goin' tub marry oflf-hand lak dat> Ah don't know
"De Lawd will provide. He know Ah done bore de burden in
de heat uh de day. Somebody done spoke to me 'bout you long
time ago. Ah ain't said nothin' 'cause dat wasn't dc way Ah
placed you. Ah wanted yuh to school out and pick from a higher
bush and a sweeter berry. But dat ain't yo' idea, Ah see."
"Nanny, who — who dat been askin' you for me?"
"Brother Logan Killicks. He's a good man, too."
"Naw, Nanny, no ma'am! Is dat whut he been hangin' round
here for? He look like some ole skullhead in de grave yard."
The older woman sat bolt upright and put her feet to the
floor, and thrust back the leaves from her face.
"So you don't want to marry off decent like, do yuh> You just
wants to hug and kiss and feel around with first one man and then
another, huh? You wants to make me suck de same sorrow yo'
14 <Qr Zora Neale Hurston
mama did, eh? Mah ok head ain't gray enough. Mah back ain't
bowed enough to suit yuht"
The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree,
but Janie didn't know how to tell Nanny that. She merely
hunched over and pouted at the floor.
"You answer me when Ah speak. Don't you set dere poutin'
wid me after all Ah done went through for you!"
She slapped the girl's face violently, and forced her head back
so that their eyes met in struggle. With her hand uplifted for the
second blow she saw the huge tear that welled up from Janie
heart and stood in each eye. She saw the terrible agony and the
lips tightened down to hold back the cry and desisted. Instead
she brushed back the heavy hair from Janie's face and stood there
suffering and loving and weeping internally for both of them.
"Come to yo* Grandma, honey. Set in her lap lak yo* use tuh.
Yo' Nanny wouldn't harm a hair uh yo' head. She don't want
nobody else to do it neither if she kin help it. Honey, de white
man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out.
Maybe it's some place way off in de ocean where de black man is
in power, but we don't know nothin* but what we see. So de
white man throw down dc load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it
up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don't tote it. He
hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de
world so fur as Ah can see. Ah been prayin* fah it tuh be different
wid you. Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!"
For a long time she sat rocking with the girl held tighriy to
her sunken breast. Janie's long legs dangled over one arm of the
chair and die long braids of her hair swung low on the other side.
Nanny half sung, half sobbed a running chantprayer over the
head of the weeping girl.
Thdr Eyes Were Watching God *fr 15
u Lawd have mercy! It was a long time on de way but Ah reckon
it had to come. Oh Jesus! Do, Jesus! Ah done de best Ah could."
Finally, they both grew calm.
"Janie> how long you been 'lowin' Johnny Taylor to kiss
"Only dis one time, Nanny. Ah don't love him at all. Whut
made me do it is— oh, Ah don't know."
"Thank yuh, Massa Jesus."
"Ah ain't gointuh do it no mo', Nanny. Please don't make
me marry Mr. Killicks."
^Tam't Logan Kiilicks Ah wants you to have, baby, it's pro-
teciion. Ah ain't gittin' ole^ honey. Ah'm done ole. One mornin'
soon, now, de angel wid de sword is gointuh stop by here. De day
and de hour is hid from me, but it won't be long. Ah ast de Lawd
when you was uh infant in mah arms to let me stay here till you
got grown. He done spared me to sec de day. Mah daily prayer
now is tuh let dese golden moments rolls on a few days longer till
Ah sec you safe in life."
*Lcmme wait, Nanny, please, jus' a lil bit mo'."
"Don't think Ah don't feci wid you, Janie, 'cause Ah do. Ah
couldn't love yuh no more if Ah had uh felt yo' birth pains mah-
self. Fact uh de matter, Ah loves yuh a whole heap more'n Ah do
yo" mama, de one Ah did birth. But you got to take in considera-
tion you ain't no everyday chile like most of 'em. You ain't got no
papa, you might jus* as well say no mama, for de good she do yuh.
You ain't got nobody but me. And mah head is ole and tilted
towards de grave. Neither can you stand alone by yo'self. De
thought uh you bem' kicked around from pillar tuh post is uh
hurtin' thing. Every tear you drop squeezes a cup uh blood outa
mah heart. Ah got tuh try and do for you befo' mah head is cold."
A sobbing sigh burst out of Janie. The old woman answered
her with litdc soothing pats of the hand
16 Zora Neaie Hurston
"You know, honey, us colored folks is branches without roots
and that makes things come round in queer ways. You in particu-
lar. Ah was born back due in slavery so it wasn't for me to fixlfiil my
dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do. Dat's one of de
hold-backs of slavery. But nothing can't stop you from wishin'.
You can't beat nobody down so low till you can rob 'em of they
will. Ah didn't want to be used for a work-ox and a brood-sow and
Ah didn't want mah daughter used dat way neither. It sho wasn't
mah will for things to happen iak they did. Ah even hated de way
you was born. But, all de same Ah said thank God, Ah got another
chance. Ah wanted to preach a great sermon about colored
women skttn* on high, but they wasn't no pulpit for me. Freedom
found me wid a baby daughter in mah arms, so Ah said Ah'd take
a broom and a cook-pot and throw up a highway through dc
wilderness for her. She would expound what Ah felt. But somehow
she got lost offe de highway and next thing Ah knowed here you
was in de world. So whilst Ah was tendin' you of nights Ah said
Ah'd save de text for you. Ah been waitin' a long time, Janie, but
nothin' Ah been through ain't too much if you just take a stand on
high ground lak Ah dreamed. w
Old Nanny sat there rocking Janie like an infant and thinking
back and back. Mind-pictures brought feelings, and feelings
dragged out dramas from the hollows of her heart.
*Dat mornin' on de big plantation close to Savannah, a rider
come in a gallop tellin' 'bout Sherman takin' Atlanta. Marse
Robert's son had done been kilt at Chickamauga. So he grabbed
his gun and straddled his best horse and went off wid de rest of
de gray-headed men and young boys to drive de Yankees back
"They was all checrin' and cryin' and shoutin' for de men dat
was ridin' off. Ah couldn't see nothin' cause yo' mama wasn't but
a week old, and Ah was flat uh mah back. But pretty soon he let
Their Byes Were W&tchmg God ^ft* 17
on he forgot somethm' and run into mah cabin and made me let
down mah hair for de last time, He sorta wropped liis hand in it,
pulled mah big toe, lak he always done, and was gone after dc rest
lak lightnin\ Ah heard *em give one last whoop for him, Then de
big house and de quarters got sober and silent,
"It was de cooi of de evenin' when Mistis come walkin' in
mah door, She throwed de door wide open and stood dcre
lookin' at me outa her eyes and her face, Look lak she been livin'
through uh hundred years in January without one day of spring.
She come stood over me in de bed.
M *Nanrry; Ah come to see that baby uh yourn,'
"Ah tried not to feei de breeze off her face, but it got so cold
in dcre dat Ah was freezin' to death under the kiwers. So Ah
couldn't move right away lak Ah aimed to, But Ah knowed Ah
had to make haste and do it,
"'You better git dat kiwer offa dat youngun and dat quick! 1
she clashed at me, 'Look lak you don't know who is Mistis on dis
plantation, Madam, But Ah aims to show you,'
"By dat time I had done managed tuh unkiwer mall baby
enough for her to see de head and face,
"'Nigger> whut's yo' baby doin' wid gray eyes and yaller
hair?' She begin tuh slap mah jaws ever which a 'way, Ah never felt
the fast ones 'cause Ah wuz too busy gittin' de kiwer back over
mah chile. But dem last lick burnt me lak fire, All had too many
feelin's tuh tell which one tuh follow so All didn't cry and Ah
didn't do nothin' else. But then she kept on astin me how come
mah baby look white. She asted me dat maybe twenty-five or
thirty times, lak she got tuh sayin' dat and couldn't help herself.
So Ah told her, 'Ah don't know nothin' but what Ah'm told tuh
do, 'cause Ah ain't nothin' but uh nigger and uh slave,'
"Instead of pacifyin' her lak Ah thought, look lak she got
madder, But Ah reckon she was tired and wore out 'cause she
IS Jfr Zora Ncak Hurstoa
didn't hit me no more. She went to dc foot of de bed and wiped
her hands on her handksher. 'Ah wouldn't dirty mah hands on
yuh. But first thing in de mornin 1 de overseer will take you to dc
whippin 1 post and tie you down on yo 1 knees and cut de hide offa
yo' yaller back. One hundred lashes wid a raw-hide on yo 1 bare
back. Ah'il have you whipped till de biood run down to yo 1 heels!
Ah mean to count de licks mahself. Ahd if it kills you Ah'il stand
de loss. Ahyhow, as soon as dat brat is a month old Ah'm going
to sell it offa dis place.'
"She flounced on off" and let her wintertime wid me. Ah
knowed mah body wasn't healed, but Ah couldn't consider dat,
In de black dark Ah wrapped mah baby de best Ah knowed how
and made it to de swamp by de river. Ah knowed de place was Ml
uh moccasins and other bitin 1 snakes^ but Ah was more skeered
uh whut was behind me. Ah hide in dere day and night and suck-
led de baby every time she start to cry, for fear somebody might
hear her and AhM git found. Ah ain't sayin 7 uh friend or two didn't
feci mah care. And den de Good Lawd seen to it dat Ah wasn't
taken, Ah don't sec how come mah milk didn't kill mah chile, wid
me so skeered and worried all de time. Dc noise uh de owls
skeered me; de limbs of dem cypress trees took to crawlm' and
movin 1 round after dark, and two three times Ah heered panthers
prowiin 1 round. But nothin 1 never hurt me 'cause de Lawd
knowed how it was.
"Den, one night Ah heard de big guns boomin 1 lak thunder,
It kept up all night long. Ahd de next mormn' Ah could see uh
big ship at a distance and a great stirrin* round. So Ah wrapped
Leafy up in moss and fixed her good in a tree and picked mah way
on down to de landin'. The men was all in blue, and Ah heard
people say Sherman was comin' to meet de boats in Savannah,
and all of us slaves was free. So Ah run got mall baby and got in
quotation wid people and found a place Ah could stay.
Their Eyes Were Watching God 19
"But it was a long time after dat befo' de Big Surrender at
Bichmond. Den de big bell ring in Atlanta and all de men in gray
uniforms had to go to Moultrie, and bury their swords in de
ground to show they was never to fight about slavery no mo\ So
den we knowed we was free.
"Ah wouldn't marry nobody, though Ah could have uh heap
uh times, cause Ah didn't want nobody mistreating mah baby. So
Ah got with some good white people and come down here in
West Florida to work and make de sun shine on both sides of de
street for Leafy,
"Mah Madam help me wid her just lak she been doin' wid
you. Ah put her in school when it got so it was a school to put her
in. Aii was "spectin' to make a school teacher outa her.
"But one day she didn't come home at de usual time and Ah
watted and waited, but she never come all dat night. Ah took a
lantern and went round askm' everybody but nobody ain't seen
her. De next mornin' she come crawlin' in on her hands and
knees. A sight ro see. Dat school teacher had done hid her in de
woods all night long, and he had done raped mah baby and run
on off just before day.
"She was only seventeen, and somethin' lak dat to happen!
lawd a'mussy! Look lak Ah kin see it all over again. It was a long
time before she was well, and by dat time we knowed you was on
de way. And after you was born she took to drinkin' likker and
stayin' out nights. Couldn't git her to stay here and nowhere else.
Lawd knows where she is right now. She ain't dead* 'cause Ah'd
know it by mah feelings, but sometimes Ah wish she was at rest,
"And, Janie, maybe it wasn't much, but Ah done de best Ah
kin by you. Ah raked and scraped and bought dis 111 piece uh land
so you wouldn't have to stay in de white folks' yard and tuck yo'
head befo' other chillun at school Dat was ail right when you was
little. But when you got big enough to understand things, Ah
20 tfp Zora Ncalc Humon
wanted you to look upon yo'self* Ah don*t want yo' feathers always
crumpled by folks throwin* up things in yo* fete. And Ah can't die
easy thinkin' maybe de menfolks white or black is makm' a spit cup
outa you: Have some sympathy fuh me. Put me down easy, Janie,
Ah'm a cracked plated
There are years that mk questions &nd years that answer Janie had
had no chance to know things, so she had to ask. Did marriage end
the cosmic loneliness of the unmated 3 * Did marriage compel love
like the sun the day?
In the few days to live before she went to Logan Kiilicks and
his often-mentioned sixty acres, Janie asked inside of herself and
out. She was back and forth to the pear tree continuously wonder-
ing and thinking. Finally out of Nanny's talk and her own conjec-
tures she made a sort of comfort for herself Yes, she would love
Logan after they were married. She couid see no way for it to come
about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so.
Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what
marriage meant. It was just so. Janie felt glad of the thought* for
then it wouldn't seem so destructive and mouldy. She wouldn't be
Janie and Logan got married in Nanny's parlor of a Saturday
evening with three cakes and big platters of fried rabbit and
chicken. Everything to eat in abundance. Nanny and Mrs. Wash-
burn had seen to that. But nobody put anything on the scat of
Logan's wagon to make it ride glorious on the way to his house.
It was a lonesome place like a stump in the middle of the woods
22 -ttr Zora Neale Humon
where nobody had ever been. The house was absent of flavor,
too. But anyhow Janie went on inside to wait for love to begin.
The new moon had been up and down three times before she got
worried in mind. Then she went to see Nanny in Mrs. Wash-
burn's kitchen on the day for beaten biscuits.
Nanny beamed all out with gladness and made her come up
to the bread board so she could kiss her.
"Lawd a'mussy, honey, Ah sho is glad tuh see mah chile?
G'wan inside and let Mis 1 Washburn know youse heah. Umph!
Umph! Umph! How is dat husband uh yourn?"
Janie didn't go in where Mrs, Washburn was. She didn't say
anything to match up with Nanny's gladness either. She just fell
on a chair with her hips and sat there. Between the biscuits and
her beaming pride Nanny didn't notice for a minute. But after a
while she found the conversation getting lonesome so she looked
up at Janie.
"Whut's de matter, sugar.* You ain't none too spry dis mornin'. w
"Oh, nothin' much, Ah reckon. Ah come to get a iil informa-
tion from you."
The old woman looked amazed, then gave a big clatter of
laughter. "Don*t tell me you done got knocked up already, less
see — dis Saturday it's two month and two weeks."
"No'm, Ah don't think so anyhow" Janie blushed a litde.
"You ain't got nothin* to be shamed of, honey, youse uh
married 'oman. You got yo' lawful husband same as Mis' Wash-
burn or anybody else?"
"Ah'm all right dat way. Ah know 'tain't nothin' dere."
"You and Logan been ftissin'? Lawd> Ah know dat grassgut,
liver-iipted nigger ain't done took and beat mah baby already!
Ah'U take a stick and salivate *im!"
^No'm, he ain't even talked 'bout hittin' me. He says he
never mean to lay de weight uh his hand on me in malice. He
Their Byes Were Watching God Jflfer 23
chops all de wood he think Ah wants and den he totes it inside de
kitchen for me. Keeps both water buckets fall"
"Humph! don't 'spect all dat tuh keep up. He ain't kissin'
yo' mouf when he carry on over yuh lak dat. He's kissin' yo' foot
and 'tain't in uh man tuh kiss foot long. Mouf kissin' is on uh
equal and dat's natural but when dey got to bow down tuh love,
dey soon straightens up t "
"Well, if he do all dat whut you come in heah wid uh face
long as mah arm for?"
"'Cause you told me Ah mus gointer love hin^ and, and Ah
don't. Maybe if somebody was to tell me how, Ah could do it. w
"You come hcah wid yo' mouf full uh foolishness on uh busy
day. Hcah you got uh prop tuh lean on all yo* bawn days, and big
protection, and everybody got tuh tip dey hat tuh you and call
you Mis 1 Killicks, and you come worryin' me 'bout love."
"But Nanny, Ah wants to want him sometimes. Ah don't
want him to do all de wan tin \"
"If you don't want him, you sho oughta. Heah you is wid de
onliest organ m town, amongst colored folks, in yo' parlor. Got a
house bought and paid for and sixty acres uh land right on de big
road and . . . Lawd have mussy! Dat's de very prong all us black
women gits hung on. Dis love! Dat's just whut' s got us uh pultin'
and uh haulm' and sweatin' and doin' from can't see in de mornin'
till can't see at night. Dat's how come de ole folks say dat bein' uh
fool don't kill nobody. It jus' makes you sweat. Ah betcha you
wants some dressed up dude dat got to look at de sole of his shoe
every&me he cross de street tuh see whether he got enough leather
dere tuh make it across. You can buy and sell such as dem wid what
you got. In feet you can buy 'em and give 'em away. *
"Ah ain't studyin' 'bout none of 'em. At de same time Ah ain't
takin' dat ole land tuh heart neither. Ah could throw ten acres of it
24 f&p Zora Neale Human
over de fence every day and never look back to see where it fell, Ah
feel de same way 'bout Mr, Killicks too. Some folks never was
meant to be loved and he's one of 'em."
"'Cause Ah hates de way his head is so long one way and so
flat on de sides and dat pone uh fat back uh his neck,"
"He never made his own head, You talk so silly 7 "
"Ah don/t keer who made it, Ah don't like de job. His belly
is too big too, now ) and his toe-nails look lak mule foots. And
'tain't nolhin 1 in de way of him washin' his feet every evenin 1
before he comes tuh bed, 'Tain't nothin 1 tuh hinder him 'cause
Ah places de water for him, Ah'd ruther be shot wid tacks than
tuh turn over in de bed and stir up de air whilst he is in dere, He
don't even never mention nothin 1 pretty."
She began to cry
"Ah wants things sweet: wid mail marriage lak when you sit
under a pear tree and think, Ah , , , "
"Tain't no use in you cryin 1 , Janie, Grandma done been long uh
few roads herself But folks is meant to cry 'bout somcthin 1 or other
Better leave things de way dey is, Yousc young yet, No tetUn' whut
moi it happen befo' you die, Wait awliilc, baby Yo 1 mind will change, ,?
Nanny sent janie along with a stern mien> but she dwindled all
the rest of the day as she worked, And when she gained the privacy
of her own little shack she stayed on her knees so long she forgot
she was there herself There is a basin in the mind where words
float around on thought and thought on sound and sight, Then
there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a
gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought, Nanny entered
this infinity of conscious pain again on her old knees, Towards
morning she muttered, "Lawd, you know mah heart, Ah done de
best Ah could do, De rest is left to you," She scuffled up from her
knees and fell heavily across the bed. A month later she was dead,
Their Eyes Were Watching God 2S
So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an
orange time, But when the pollen again gilded the sun and sifted
down on the world she began to stand around the gate and
expect things- What things? She didn't know exactly- Her breath
was gusty and short- She knew things that nobody had ever told
her- For instance^ the words of the trees and the wind. She often
spoke to felling seeds and said, "Ah hope you fall on soft
ground," because she had heard seeds saying that to each other
as they passed- She knew the world was a stallion rolling in the
blue pasture of ether, She knew that God tore down the old
world every evening and built a new one by sun-up- It was won-
derful to see it take form with the sun and emerge from the gray
dust of its making- The familiar people and things had failed her
so she hung over the gate and looked up the road towards way
off, She knew now that marriage did not make love- Janie\s first
dream was dead, so she became a woman -
Long before the year was up, Janie noticed that her husband
had stopped talking in rhymes to her He had ceased to won-
der at her long black hair and finger it. Six months back he had
told her, "If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh,
look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside, Mali fust wife
never bothered me 'bout choppin 7 no wood nohow. She'd
grab dat ax and sling chips lak uh man. You done been spoilt
So Janie had told him, "Ab'm just as stiff as you is stout. If you
can stand not to chop and tote wood Ah reckon you can stand not
to git no dinner. 'Scuse man freezoiky, Mist' Killicks, but Ah don't
mean to chop de first chip,"
"Aw you know Ah'm gwine chop de wood fuh yuh. Even if you
is stingy as you can be wid me, Yo' Grandma and me myself done
spoilt yuh now, and Ah reckon Ah have tuh keep on wid it,**
One morning soon he called her out of the kitchen to the
barn. He had the mule all saddled at the gate,
"Looka heah, LilBit, help me out some. Cut up dese seed
taters fuh me. Ah got tuh go step off a piece "
^Where you goin\>"
^Ovcr tuh Lake City tuh see uh man about uh mule."
Their Byes Were Watching God 4RP 27
"Whut you need two mules fuh? Lessen you aims to swap off
^Naw, Ah needs two mules dis yeah- Taters is goin' tuh be
taters in de Ml. Bringin* big prices- Ah aims tuh run two plows,
and dis man Ah*m talkin* 'bout is got uh mule all gended up so
even uh woman kin handle *im,"
Logan held his wad of tobacco real still in his jaw like a ther-
mometer of his feelings while he studied Janie *s fete and waited
for her to say something,
"So Ah thought Ah mout as well go see," He tagged on and
swallowed to kill time but Janie said nothing except^ "Ah'Il cut
de p ? taters fuh yuh, When yuh comin' back?"
''Don't know exactly, Round dust dark Ah reckon, It's uh
sorta long trip — specially if Ah hafter lead one on de way back, "
When Janie had finished indoors she sat down in the barn with
the potatoes, But springtime reached her in there so she moved
everything to a place in the yard where she could see the road. The
noon sun filtered through the leaves of the fine oak tree where she
sat and made lacy patterns on the ground- She had been there a
long time when she heard whistling coming down the road,
It was a cityfied^ stylish dressed man with his hat set at an angle
that didn*t belong in these parts, His coat was over his arm* but he
didn't need it to represent his clothes, The shirt with the silk
sleeveholders was dazzling enough for the wortd, He whisded,
mopped his fece and walked like he knew where he was going, He
was a seal-brown color but he acted like Mr, Washburn or some-
body like that to janie, Where would such a man be coming from
and where was he going? He didn't look her way nor no other way
except straight ahead s so Janie ran to the pump and jerked the han~
die hard while she pumped, It made a loud noise and also made
her heavy hair fall down. So he stopped and looked hard, and then
he asked her for a cool drink of water,
28 Zora Ncalc Hurston
Janie pumped it off until she got a good look at the man. He
talked friendly while he drank.
Joe Starks was the name, yeah Joe Starks from in and through
Georgy. Been workin' for white folks all his life. Saved up some
money — round three hundred dollars, yes indeed, right here in his
pocket. Kept hearin' 'bout them huildin' a new state down heah in
Floridy and sort of wanted to come. But he was makin' money
where he was. But when he heard all about Vm makin' a town all
outa colored folks, he knowed dat was de place he wanted to be.
He had always wanted to he a big voice, hut dc white folks had all
de sayso where he come from and everywhere else, exceptin' dis
place dat colored folks was buildin' theirselves. Dat was right too.
De man dat built things oughta boss it. Let colored folks build
things too if dey wants to crow over sometMn'. He was glad he
had his money all saved up. He meant to git dere whilst de town
wuz yet a baby. He meant to buy in big. It had always been his
wish and desire to be a big voice and he had to live nearly thirty
years to find a chance. Where was Janie' s papa and mama?
"Dey dead, Ah reckon. Ah wouldn*t know 'bout 'em 'cause
mah Grandma raised me. She dead too."
"She dead too! Well, who's lookin* after a lil girl -chile lak
"Ah'm married. 7 '
"You married? You ain't hardly old enough to be weaned. Ah
betcha you still craves sugar-tits, doncher?"
"Yeah, and Ah makes and sucks 'em when de notion strikes
me. Drinks sweeten' water too."
"Ah loves dat mahself. Never specks to get too old to enjoy
syrup sweeten' water when it's cools and nice. "
"Us got plenty syrup in de barn. Bibbon-cane syrup. Tf you
"Where yo' husband at, Mis' er-er. B
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4p 29
"JVIah name is Janic Mae Killicks since Ah got married.
Useter be name Janie Mae Crawford. Mah husband is gone tuh
buy a mule fuh me tuh plow. He left me cuttin 1 up seed p'taters. "
"You behind a plow! Yon ain't got no mo' business wid uh
plow than uh hog is got wid uh holiday! You ain*t got no busi-
ness cuttin' up no seed p'taters neither. A pretty doll-baby lak
you is made to sit on de front porch and rock and fan yo'self and
cat p'taters dat other folks plant just special for you."
Janie laughed and drew two quarts of syrup from the barrel
and Joe Starks pumped the water bucket full of cool water. They
sat under the tree and talked. He was going on down to the new
part of Florida, but no harm to stop and chat. He later decided
he needed a rest anyway. It would do him good to rest a week or
Every day after that they managed to meet in the scrub oaks
across die road and talk about when he would be a big ruler of
things with her reaping the benefits. Janie pulled back a long
time because he did not represent sun-up and pollen and bloom ■
ing trees, but he spoke for far horizon. He spoke for change and
chance. Still she hung back. The memory of Nanny was still pow-
erfol and strong,
"Janie, if you think Ah aims to tole you off and make a dog
outa you, youse wrong. Ah wants to make a wife outa you. M
"You mean dat, JoeP
"De day you puts yo 1 hand in mine, Ah wouldn't let de sun
go down on us single. Ah'm uh man wid principles. You ain't
never knowed what it was to be treated lak a lady and Ah wants
to be de one tuh show yuh. Call me Jody lak you do sometime."
"Tody," she smiled up at him, "but s'posin —
"Leave de s'posin' and everything else to me. Ah*li be down
dis road uh little after sunup tomorrow mornin' to wait for you.
You come go wid me. Den all de rest of yo' natural life you kin live
30 Zora Neaie Hurston
kkyou oughta- Kiss me and shake yo' head- When yoa do dat, yo'
plentiful hair breaks iak day, 7 *
Janie debated the matter that night in bed-
"Logan, you 'sleep?"
"If Ah wuz, you'd be done woke me up callin' mc"
"Ah wuz thinkin' real hard about us; about you and mc- ft
"It^s about time- Youse powerful independent around here
"Considerin' whut for instance?"
"Considerin' youse born in a carriage 'thout no top to it,
and yo' mama and you bein' born and raised in de white folks
"You didn't say all dat when you wuz begging Nanny for me
to marry you-"
"Ah thought you would 'predate good treatment- Thought
AhM take and make somethin' outa yuh- You think youse white
foiks by dc way you act."
"S'posin' Ah wuz to run off and leave yuh sometime-"
There! Janie had put words in his heid-in fears- She might
run off sure enough, The thought put a terrible ache in Logan's
body, but he thought it best to put on scorn-
"Ah'm gcttin 7 sleepy, Janie- Let's don't talk no mo\ 'Tain't
too many mens would trust yuh, knowin' yo' folks lak dey do- B
"Ah might take and find somebody dat did trust me and
"Shucks! Tain't no mo' fools lak me- A whole lot of mens will
grin in yo 1 face, but dey ain't gwine tuh work and feed yuh- You
won't git far and you won't be long, when dat big gut reach over
and grab dat little one, you'll be too giad to come back here. 1 *
"You don't take nothin' to count but sow-belly and corn-
"Ah'm sleepy- Ah don't aim to worry mah gut into a fiddle-
Their Eyes Were Watching God V* SI
string wid no s'posin'," He flopped over resentful in his agony
and pretended sleep. He hoped that he had hurt her as she had
Janie got up with him the next morning and had the breakfast
halfway done when he bellowed from the barn,
"Janie!" Logan called harshly "Come help rnc move dis
manure pile befo' dc sun gits hot- You don't take a bit of interest in
dis place, Tain't no use in foolin' round in dat kitchen all day long, 1 *
Janie walked to the door with the pan in her hand still stirring
the cornmeal dough and looked towards the barn, The sun from
ambush was threatening the world with red daggers, but the
shadows were gray and solid-looking around the barn, Logan
with his shovel looked like a black bear doing some clumsy dance
on his hind legs,
"You don't need mah help out dere, Ix>gan, Youse in yo'
place and Ah'rn in mine,"
"You ain't got no particular place, It's wherever Ah need
yuh. Git uh move on yuh, and dat quick, 79
"Mah mamma didn't tell rnc All wuz born in no hurry. So
whut business Ah got rushin' now? Anyhow dat ain't whut youse
mad about. Youse mad 'cause Ah don't fell down and wash-up
dese sixty acres uh ground yuh got, You ain't done mc no favor
by marryin' me, And if dat's what you call yo'self doin', Ah don't
thank yuh for it, Youse mad 'cause Ah'm teilin' yuh whut you
Logan dropped his shovel and made two or three clumsy
steps towards the house, then stopped abruptly
"Don't you change too many words wid me dis mawmn',
Janie, do Ah'll take and change ends wid yuh! Heah, Ah just as
good as take you out de white folks' kitchen and set you down
on yo ? royal diasticutis and you take and low- rate me! Ah'll
take holt uh dat ax and come in dere and kill yuh! You better
32 4Sp Zora Ncale Hurston
dry up in dere! Ah'm too honest and hard-workin* for anybody
in yo* family, dat's dc reason you don't want me!" The last
sentence was half a sob and half a cry. "Ah guess some iow-Hfed
nigger is grinnkf in yo' face and iyin' tuh yuh. God damn yo 5
Janie turned from the door without answering, and stood
still in the middle of the floor without knowing it. She turned
wrongside out just standing there and feeling. When the throb-
bing calmed a little she gave Logan's speech a hard thought and
placed it beside other things she had seen and heard. When she
had finished with that she dumped the dough on the skillet and
smoothed it over with her hand. She wasn't even angry. Ix>gan
was accusing her of her mamma, her grandmama and her feel-
ings, and she couldn't do a thing about any of it. The sow-belly
in the pan needed turning. She flipped it over and shoved it back.
A litde cold water in the coffee pot to settle it. Turned the hoe-
cake with a plate and then made a little laugh. What was she los-
ing so much time for? A feeling of sudden newness and change
came over her. Janie hurried out of the front gate and turned
south. Even if Joe was not there waiting for her, the change was
bound to do her good.
The morning road air was like a new dress. That made her
feel the apron tied around her waist. She untied it and flung it
on a low bush beside the road and walked on, picking flowers
and making a bouquet. After that she came to where Joe Starks
was waiting for her with a hired rig. He was very solemn and
helped her to the scat beside him. With him on it, it sat like
some high, ruling chair. From now on until death she was going
to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A
bee for her bloom. Her old thoughts were going to come in
handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to
Their Eyes Were Watching God ^Br 33
"Green Cove Springs," he told the driver, So they were mar-
ried there before sundown, just like Joe had said, With new clothes
of silk and wool
They sat on the boarding house porch and saw the sun plunge
into the same crack in the earth from which the night emerged,
Ofh the train the next day y Joe didn*t make many speeches with
rhymes to her, but he bought her the best things the butcher had,
like apples and a glass lantern foil of candies. Mostly he talked
about plans for the town when he got there. They were bound to
need somebody like him, Janie took a lot of looks at him and she
was proud of what she saw Kind of portly like rich white folks.
Strange trains, and people and places didn't scare him neither.
Where they got off the train at Maitland he found a buggy to carry
them over to the colored town right away
It was early in the afternoon when they got there, so Joe said
they must walk over the place and look around. They locked arms
and strolled from end to end of the town. Joe noted the scant
dozen of shame-faced houses scattered in the sand and palmetto
roots and said, "God, they call this a town? Why, 'tain*t nothing
but a raw place in dc woods,* 1
"It is a whole heap littler than Ah thought," Janie admitted
"Just like Ah thought,"* Joe said, ri A whole heap uh talk and
nobody doin' nothin*, I god, whereas de Mayor?" he asked some-
body, "Ah want tuh speak wid de Mayor,"*
Two men who were sitting on their shoulderblades under a
Their Eyes Were Watching God *Sm 35
huge live oak tree almost sat upright at the tone of his voice. They
stared at Joe's face, his clothes and his wife.
"Where y'all cornc from in sich uh big haste?" Lee Coker asked.
"Middle Georgy," Starks answered briskly. "Joe Starks is mah
name, from in and through Georgy"
"You and yo' daughter goin' tuh join wid us in fellowship?"
the other reclining figure asked. "Mighty glad tuh have yuh.
Hicks is the name. Guv' nor Amos Hicks from Buford, South
Carolina. Free, single, disengaged."
"I god, Ah ain't nowhere near old enough to have no grown
daughter. This here is mah wife."
Hicks sank back and lost interest at once.
"Where is de Mayor?" Starks persisted. "Ah wants tuh talk
"Youse uh mite too previous for dat," Coker told him. "Us
ain't got none yit."
"Ain't got no Mayor! Well, who teils y'ail what to do?"
"Nobody. Everybody's grown. And then agin, Ah reckon us
just ain't thought about it. Ah know Ah ain't."
"Ah did think about it one day," Hicks said dreamily, "but
then Ah forgot it and ain't thought about it since then."
"No wonder things ain't no better," Joe commented. "Ah'm
buyin' in here, and buyin' in big. Soon 7 s we find some place to
sleep tonight us menfolks got to call people together and form a
committee. Then we can get things movin' round here."
"Ah kin point yuh where yuh kin sleep," Hicks offered.
"Man got his house done built and his wife ain't come yet."
Starks and Janie moved on off in the direction indicated with
Hicks and Coker boring into their backs with looks.
"Dat man talks like a section foreman," Coker commented.
"He's mighty compellment."
"Shucks!" said Hicks. "Mah britches is just as long as his. But
36 46* Zora Neaie Hurston
dat wife uh hisn! Ah'm uh son of uh Conjunction if Ah don't go
tuh Gcorgy and git me one just like her."
"Wid mahtalk, man."
"It takes money tuh feed pretty women. Dey gits uh lavish
"Not lak mine. Dey loves to hear me talk because dey can't
understand it. Mah co-talkin' is too deep. Too much co to it."
"You don't believe me, do yuh> You don't know de women
Ah kin git to mah command."
"You ain't never seen me when Ah'm out pleasuring and
"It's uh good thing he married her befo' she seen me. Ah kin
be some trouble when Ah take uh notion."
"Ah'm uh bitch's baby round lady people."
"Ah's much ruther see all dat than to hear 'bout it. Come on
less go see whut he gointuh do 'bout dis town."
They got up and sauntered over to where Starks was living
for the present. Already the town had found the strangers. Joe
was on the porch talking to a small group of men. Janie could be
seen through the bedroom window getting setded. Joe had
rented the house for a month. The men were all around him, and
he was talking to them by asking questions.
"Whut is de real name of de place?"
"Some say West Maidand and some say Eatonville. Dat's
'cause Cap'n Eaton give us some land along wid Mr. Laurence.
But Cap'n Eaton give de first piece."
"How much did they give?"
Their Byes Were Warehing God 37
"Oh 'bout fifty acres."
"How much is y'all got now?"
"Oh 'bout de same"
"Dat ain't near enough. Who owns de land joining on to
whut yuh got?"
"Where £f dis Cap'n Eaton?"
"Over dere in Maitland, Veptin' when he go visitin* or
"Lemme speak to mah wife a minute and Ah J m goin' see de
man. You cannot have no town without some land to build it on.
Tall ain't got enough here to cuss a cat on without gittin' yo J
mouf fall of hair."
"He ain't got no mo' land tuh give away. Yuh needs plenty
money if yuh wants any mo'."
"Ah specks to pay him."
The idea was funny to diem and they wanted to laugh. They
tried hard to hold it in, but enough incredulous laughter burst
out of their eyes and leaked from the comers of their mouths to
inform anyone of their thoughts. So Joe walked off abrupdy.
Most of them went along to show him the way and to be there
when his bluff was called.
Hicks didn't go far. He turned back to the house as soon as
he felt he wouldn't be missed from the crowd and mounted the
"Evcnin*, Miz Starks."
"You reckon you gointuh like round here?"
"Ah reckon so."
"Anything Ah kin do tuh help out, why you kin call on me. "
There was a long dead pause. Janie was not jumping at her
38 J£p Zora Neaic Humon
chance like she ought to. Ixx>k like she didn't hardly know he
was there. She needed waking up.
"Folks must be mighty close-mouthed where you come from. "
"Dat's right. But it must be different at yo* home."
He was a long time thinking bu t finally he saw and stumbled
down the steps with a surly "'Bye."
That night Coker asked him about it.
"Ah saw yuh when yuh ducked back tuh Starks 1 house. Well,
how didju make out?"
"Who, me? Ah ain't been near de place, man . Ah been down
tuh de lake tryin* tuh ketch me uh fish,"
"Dat 'oman ain't so awfully pretty no how when yuh take de
second look at her. Ah had to sorta pass by de house on de way back
and seen her good. Tain't nothin 1 to her 'ceptin' dat long hair."
"And anyhow, Ah done took uhlikin 1 tuh de man. Ah wouldn't
harm him at ail. She ain't half ez pretty ez uh gal Ah run off and left
up in South CaTlina,"
"Hicks, Ah'd git mad and say yon wuz lyin 1 if Ah didn't know
yuh so good. You just talkin 1 to consolate yo'self by word of
mouth. You got uh willin 1 mind, but youse too light behind. A
whole heap uh men seen de same thing you seen but they got bet-
ter sense than you. You oughta know you can't take no 'oman lak
dat from no man lak him. A man dat ups and buys two hundred
acres uh land at one whack and pays cash for it. "
"Naw! He didn't buy it sho nuff>"
"Heshodid. Come offwiddc papers in his pocket. He done
called a meetin 1 on his porch tomorrow. Ain't never seen no sich
uh colored man befo 1 in all mah bawn days. He's gointuh put up
uh store and git uh post office from de Goven'ment. "
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4Sr 39
That irritated Hicks and he didn't know why. He was the aver-
age mortal. It troubled him to get used to the world one way and
then suddenly have it turn different. He wasn't ready to think of
colored people in post offices yet. He laughed boisterously.
w Y*all let dat stray darky tell y'all any ole lie! Uh colored man
sittin' up in uh post office ! w He made an obscene sound.
"He's liable tuh do it too > Hicks. Ah hope so anyhow. Us col-
ored folks is too envious of one 'nother. Dat's how come us don't
git no further than us do. Us talks about de white man keepin' us
down! Shucks! He don't have tuh. Us keeps our own selves
"'Now who said All didn't want de man tuh git us uh post
office? He kin be de king uh Jerusalem fuh all Ah keer. Still and
all, 'tain't no use in telling lies just 'cause uh heap uh folks don't
know no better. Yo' common sense oughta tell yuh de white folks
ain't goin' tuh 'low him tuh run no post office,"
"Dat we don't know, Hicks. He say he kin and Ah b'lieve he
know whut he's talkin' 'bout. Ah reckon if colored folks got they
own town they kin have post offices and whatsoever they please,
regardless. And then agin, Ah don't speck de white folks way off
yonder give uh damn. Less us wait and see."
"Oh, Ah'm waitin' all right. Specks tuh keep on waitin' till
hell freeze over."
"Aw, git reconciled! Dat woman don't want you. You got
tuh learn dat all de women in de world ain't been brought up on
no teppentinc still, and no saw- mill camp. There's some women
dat jus' ain't for you tuh broach. You can't git her wid no fish
They argued a bit more then went on to the house where Joe
was and found him in his shirt-sleeves, standing with his legs
wide apart, asking questions and smoking a cigar.
"Where's de closest saw- mill?" He was asking Tony Taylor.
40 jfip Zora Neaie Hurston
"'Bout scben miles goin' tVards Apopka," Tony told him.
"Thinkin' "bout buildin' right away?"
"I god, yeah, But not de house Ah specks tuh live in. Dat kin
wait till Ah make up mah mind where Ah wants it located. Ah Ag-
gers we all needs uh store in uh big hurry,"
"Uh store?" Tony shouted in surprise.
"Yeah, uh store right heah in town wid everything in it you
needs. 'Tain't uh bit uh use in everybody proagin' way over tuh
Maitland tuh buy uh little meal and flour when they could git it
w Dat would be kinda nice, Brother Starks, since you mention it. "
u l god, course it would! And then agin uh store is good in
other ways. Ah got tuh have a place tuh be at when folks comes
tuh buy land. And furthermo' everything is got tuh have uh cen-
ter and uh heart tuh it, and uh town ain't no different from
nowhere else. It would be natural fiih de store tuh be meetin'
place fuh de town."
"Dat sho is de truth, now."
"Oh, we'll have dis town all fixed up tereckly. Don't miss
bein' at de meetin' tuhmorrow"
Just about time for the committee meeting called to meet on
his porch next day, the first wagon load of lumber drove up and
Jody went to show them where to put it. Told Janie to hold the
committee there until he got back, he didn't want to miss them, but
he meant to count every foot of that lumber before it touched the
ground. He could have saved his breath and Janie could have kept
right on with what she was doing. In the first place everybody was
late in coming; then the next thing as soon as they heard where Jody
was, they kept right on up there where the new lumber was rattling
off the wagon and being piled under the big live oak tree. So that's
where the meeting was held with Tony Taylor acting as chairman
and Jody doing all the talking. A day was named for roads and they
Their Eyes Were Watching God 41
all agreed to bring axes and things like that and chop out two roads
running each way, That applied to everybody except Tony and
Coker. They could carpenter, so Jody hired them to go to work on
his store bright and soon the next morning, Jody himself would be
busy driving around from town to town telling people about
Eatonvillc and drumming up citizens to move there,
Janie was astonished to see the money Jody had spent for the
land come back to him so fast, Ten new iamilies bought lots and
moved to town in six weeks. It all looked too big and rushing for
her to keep track of, Before the store had a complete roof, Jody
had canned goods piled on the floor and was selling so much he
didn't have time to go off on his talking tours, She had her first
taste of presiding over it the day it was complete and finished.
Jody told her to dress up and stand in the store all that evening.
Everybody was coming sort of fixed up, and he didn't mean for
nobody else's wife to rank with her, She must look on herself as
the bell-cow, the other women were the gang, So the put on one
of her bou glit dresses and went up the new-cut road all dressed
in wine-colored red. Her silken ruffles rustled and muttered
about her, The other women had on percale and calico with here
and there a headrag among the older ones.
Nobody was buying anything that night, They didn't come
there for diat, They had come to make a welcome, So Joe knocked
in the head of a barrel of soda crackers and cut some cheese,
"Everybody come right forward and make merry, I god, it's
rnah treat," Jody gave one of his big heh hch laughs and stood
back. Janie dipped up the lemonade like he told her, A big tin cup
full for everybody, Tony Taylor felt so good when it was all gone
that he felt to make a speech,
"Ladies and gent'men, we'se come tuhgethcr and gethered
heah tuh welcome tub our midst one who has seen fit tuh cast in
his lot amongst us, He didn't just come hisself neither. He have
42 ^Sr Zora Ncaie Hurston
seen fit tuh bring his, er, en, de light uh his home, dat is his wife
amongst us also. She couldn't look no mo 1 better and no nobler
if she wuz de queen uh England. It's uh pledger fuh her tuh be
heah amongst us. Brother Starks, we welcomes you and all dat
you have seen fit tuh bring amongst us — yo' belov-ed wife, yo'
store, yo' iand~— "
A big- mouthed burst of laughter cut him short.
"Dat'll do, Tony," Lige Moss yelled out. "Mist' Starks is uh
smart man, weV all willin' tuh acknowledge tuh dat, but de day
he comes waggin' down de road wid two hund'ed acres uf land
over his shoulder, Ah wants tuh be dere tuh see it."
Another big blow-out of a laugh. Tony was a little peeved at
having the one speech of his lifetime ruined like that.
U A11 y'ail know whut wuz meant. Ah don't see how come — "
"'Cause you jump up tuh make speeches and don't know
how," Lige said.
"Ah wuz speakin' jus' all right befo' you stuck yo' bill in."
"Naw, you wuzn't, Tony. Youse way outa jurisdiction. You
can't welcome uh man and his wife 'thout you make comparison
about Isaac and Rebecca at de well, else it don't show de love
between 'em if you don't."
Everybody agreed that that was right. It was sort of pitiful for
Tony not to know he couldn't make a speech without saying that.
Some tittered at his ignorance. So Tony said testily, "If all them
dat's goin-tuh cut de monkey is done cut it and through wid,
we'll thank Brother Starks fuh a respond."
So Joe Starks and his cigar took the center of the floor.
u Ah thanks you all for yo' kind welcome and for extendin' tuh
me de right hand uh fellowship. Ah kin see dat dis town is full uh
union and love. Ah means tuh put mah hands tuh de plow heah, and
strain every nerve tuh make dis our town de metropolis uh de state.
So maybe Ah better tell yuh in case ycxi don't know dat if we expect
Their Byes Were Watching Gad 4r 43
tuh move on, us got tuh incorporate lak every other town. Us got
tuh incorporate, and us got tuh have uh mayor, if things is tuh be
done and done right. Ah welcome you all on behalf uh me and mah
wife tuh dis store and tuh de other things tuh come. Amen."
Tony led the loud hand-clapping and was out in the center of
the floor when it stopped.
"Brothers and sisters, since us can't never expect tuh better
our choice, Ah move dat we make Brother Starks our Mayor until
we kin see further.'"
"Second dat morion!!!" It was everybody talking at once, so
it was no need of putting it to a vote.
"And now we'll listen tuh uh few words uh encouragement
from Mrs. Mayor Starks."
ITie burst of applause was cut short by Joe taking the floor
"Thank yuh fuh yo' compliments, but mah wife don't know
liothiii' 'bout no speeclvmakin'. Ah never married her for
nothin' iak dat. She's uh woman and her place is in de home."
Janie made her face laugh after a short pause, but it wasn't
too easy. She had never thought of making a speech, and dicing
know if she cared to make one at all. It must have been the way
Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one
way or another that took the bloom off of things. But anyway,
she went down the road behind him that night feeling cold. He
strode along invested with his new dignity, thought and planned
out loud, unconscious of her thoughts.
"De mayor of uh town lak dis can't lay round home too
much. De place needs buildin' up. Janie, Ah '11 git hold uh some-
body tuh help out in de store and you kin look after things whilst
Ah drum up things otherwise."
"Oh Jody, Ah can't do nothin' wid no store lessen youse there. Ah
could maybe come in and help you when things git rushed, but—"
44 J&p Zora Neaie Humon
"I god, Ah don't sec how come yuh can't. Tain't nothin'
atall tuh hinder yuh if yuh got uh thimble fall uh sense. You got
tuh. Ah got too much else on mah hands as Mayor. Dis town
needs some light right now"
"Unh hunh, it is uh little dark right long heah."
"'Course it is. Tain't no use in scufflin' over all dese stumps
and roots in de dark. Ah'li call uh meetin' bout de dark and de
roots right away. Ah'li sit on dis case first thing."
The very next day with money out of his own pocket he sent
off to Sears, Roebuck and Company for the street lamp and told
the town to meet the following Thursday night to vote on it.
Nobody had ever thought of street lamps and some of them said
it was a useless notion. They went so far as to vote against it, but
the majority ruled.
But the whole town got vain over it after it came. That was
because the Mayor didn't just take it out of the crate and stick it
up on a post. He unwrapped it and had it wiped off carefully and
put it up on a showcase for a week for everybody to see. Then he
set a time for the lighting and sent word all around Orange
County for one and all to come to the lamplighting. He sent men
out to the swamp to cut the finest and the straightest cypress post
they could find, and kept on sending them back to hunt another
one until they found one that pleased him. He had talked to the
people already about the hospitality of the occasion.
"Y'all know we can't invite people to our town just dry long
so. I god, naw. We got tuh feed 'em something, and 'tain't
nothin' people laks better 'n barbecue. Ah'II give one whole
hawg mah ownself. Seem lak all de rest uh y'all put tuhgether
oughta be able tuh scrape up two mo' K Tell yo' womenfolks
tuh do 'round 'bout some pies and cakes and sweet p'tater
That's the way it went, too. The women got together the
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r 45
sweets and the men looked after the meats , The day before the
iighting > diey dug a big hole in back of the store and filled it full
of oak wood and burned it down to a glowing bed of coals. It
took them the whole night to barbecue the three hogs. Hambo
and Pearson had full charge while the others helped out with
turning the meat now and then while Hambo swabbed it all
over with the sauce. In between times they told stories, laughed
and told more stories and sung songs. They cut all sorts of
capers and whiffed the meat as it slowly came to perfection with
the seasoning penetrating to the bone. The younger boys had
to rig up the saw-horses with boards for the women to use as
tables. Then it was after sun-up and everybody not needed went
home to rest up for the feast.
By five o'clock the town was full of every kind of a vehicle
and swarming with people. They wanted to see that lamp lit at
dusk. Near the time, Joe assembled everybody in the street
before the store and made a speech.
"Folkses, de sun is goin' down, De Sun -maker brings it up in
de morning and de Sun-maker sends it tuh bed at night. Us poor
weak humans can't do nothin' tuh hurry it up nor to slow it
down. All we can do, if we want any light after de scttin' or befo'
de risin', is tuh make some light ourselves. So dat's how come
lamps was made. Dis evenin* weV ail assembled heah tuh light
uh lamp. Dis occasion is something for us ail tuh remember tuh
our dyin' day. De first street lamp in uh colored town. Lift yo*
eyes and gaze on it. And when Ah touch de match tuh dat lamp-
wick let de light penetrate inside of yuh, and let it shine, let it
shine, let it shine. Brother Davis, lead us in a word uh prayer. Ask
uh blessin' on dis town in uh most particular manner,"
While Davis chanted a traditional prayer-poem with his own
variations, Joe mounted the box that had been placed for the
purpose and opened the brazen door of the lamp. As the word
46 *Sm Zora Neaie Hurston
Amen was said, he touched the lighted match to the wick, and
Mrs, Bogle's alto burst out in:
We'll walk in de light, de beautiful light
Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright
Shine all around us by day and by night
Jesus, the light of the world.
They, ail of them, all of the people took it up and sung it over
and over until it was wrung dry, and no further innovations of tone
and tempo were conceivable. Then they hushed and ate barbecue.
When it was all over that night in bed Jody asked Janie,
"Well, honey, how yuh lak bein' Mrs, Mayor?"
"It's all right Ah reckon, but don't yuh think it keeps us in uh
"Strain? You mean de cookie* and waitin' on folks?"
"Naw, Jody, it jus' looks lak it keeps us in some way wc ain't
natural wid one Mother, You'se always off talkiiv and fixin*
things, and Ah feels lak Ah'm jus' markin' time, Hope it soon gits
"Over, Janie? I god, Ah ain't even started good. Ah told you
in de very first beginnin' dat Ah aimed tuh be uh big voice. You
oughta be glad, 'cause dat makes uh big woman outa you."
A feeling of coldness and fear took hold of her. She felt far
away from things and lonely,
Janie soon began to feel the impact of awe and envy against her
sensibilities. The wife of the Mayor was not just another woman
as she had supposed. She slept with authority and so she was
part of it in the town mind. She couldn't get but so close to
most of them in spirit. It was especially noticeable after Joe had
forced through a town ditch to drain the street in front of the
Their Eyes Were Watching God *fr 47
store. They had murmured hotiy about slavery being over, but
every man filled his assignment*
There was something about Joe Starks that cowed the town.
It was not because of physical fear. He was no fist fighter His
bulk was not even imposing as men go. Neither was it because he
was more literate tiian the rest. Something else made men give
way before him. He had a bow -down command in his face, and
every step he took made the thing more tangible.
Take for instance that new house of his. It had two stones with
porches, with bannisters and such things. The rest of the town
looked like servants' quarters surrounding the "big house." And
different from everybody else in the town he put off moving in
until it had been painted, in and out. And look at the way he
painted it— a gloaty, sparkly white. The kind of promenading
white that the houses of Bishop Whipple, W. B. Jackson and the
VandcrpooPs wore. It made the village feel runny miking to him—
just like he was anybody else. Then there was the matter of the
spittoons. No sooner was he ail set as the Mayor — post master —
landlord— storekeeper, than he bought a desk like Mr. Hill or Mr.
Galloway over in Maitiand with one of those swing- around chairs
to it. What with him biting down on cigars and saving his breath
on talk and swinging round in that chair, it weakened people. And
then he spit in that gold-looking vase that anybody else would
have been glad to put on their front-room table. Said it was a spit-
toon just like his used-to-be bossman used to have in his bank up
there in Atlanta. Dicing have to get up and go to the door every
time he had to spit. Didn't spit on his floor neither. Had that
golded-up spitting pot right handy. But he went further than that.
He bought a little lady-size spitting pot for Janie to spit in. Had it
right in the parlor with little sprigs of flowers painted all around the
sides. It took people by surprise because most of the women
dipped snuff and of course had a spit-cup in the house. But how
48 4Bp Zora Neale Humon
could they know up-to-date folks was spitting in flowery little
things like that? It sort of made the rest of them feel that they had
been taken advantage of. Like things had been kept from them.
Maybe more things in the world besides spitting pots had been hid
from them, when they wasn't told no better than to spit in tomato
cans. It was bad enough for white people, but when one of your
own color could be so different it put you on a wonder. It was iike
seeing your sister turn into a 'gator. A familiar strangeness. You
keep seeing your sister in the 'gator and the 'gator in your sister >
and you'd rather not. There was no doubt that the town respected
him and even admired him in a way. But any man who walks in the
way of power and property is bound to meet hate. So when speak-
ers stood up when the occasion demanded and said "Our beloved
Mayor," it was one of those statements that everybody says but
nobody actually believes like "God is everywhere." It was just a
handle to wind up the tongue with. As time went on and the ben-
efits he had conferred upon the town receded in time they sat on
his store porch while he was busy inside and discussed him. Like
one day after he caught Henry Pitts with a wagon load of his rib-
bon cane and took the cane away from Pitts and made him leave
town. Some of them thought Starks ought not to have done that.
He had so much cane and everything else. But they didn't say that
while Joe Starks was on the porch. When the mail came from Mait •
land and he went inside to sort it out everybody had their say.
Sim Jones started off as soon as he was sure that Starks couldn't
"It's uh sin and uh shame runnin' dat po' man way from here
lak dat. Colored folks oughtn't tuh be so hard on one 'nother."
u Ah don't see it dat way atall," Sam Watson said shortly. "Let
colored folks learn to work for what dey git lak everybody else.
Nobody ain't stopped Pitts from plantin' de cane he wanted tuh.
Starks give him uh job, what mo' do he want?"
Their Eyes Were Watching God 49
"Ah know dat too," Jones said, "but, Sam, Joe Starks is too
exact wid folks- All he got he done made it offa de rest of us. He
didn't have all dat when he come here-"
"Yeah, but none uh all dis you see and you'se setrin' on wasn't
here neither, when he come. Give de devil his due,"
"But now, Sam, you know dat all he do is big-belly round
and tell other folks what tuh do. He loves obedience out of
everybody under de sound of his voice-"
"You kin feel a switch in his hand when he's talkin* to yuh, w
Oscar Scott complained- "Dat chastisin' feelin' he totes sorter
gives yuh de protolapsis uh de culinary limn'."
"He's uh whirlwind among breezes," JefFBruce threw in-
"Speakin' of winds, he's de wind and we'se de grass- We bend
which ever way he blows, ^ Sam Watson agreed, "but at dat us
needs him. De town wouldn't be nothin' if it wasn't for him. He
can't help bein' sorta bossy- Some folks needs thrones, and rul-
ing-chairs and crowns tuh make they influence felt. He don't-
He's got uh throne in de seat of his pants-"
"Whut Ah don't lak 'bout de man is, he talks tuh unlettered
folks wid books in his jaws," Hicks complained- "Showin* off his
iearnin\ lb look at me you wouldn't think it> but Ah got uh brother
pastorin 7 up round Ocaia dat got good learnin' - If he wuz here, Joe
Starks wouldn't make no fool outa him lak he do de rest uh y'ali-"
"Ah often wonder how dat 111 wife uh hisn makes out wid him,
'cause he's uh man dat changes everything, but nothin' don't
"You know many's de time Ah done thought about dat malv
self- He gits on her ever now and then when she make little mis-
takes round de store-"
"Whut make her keep her head tied up lak some ole 'oman
round de store? Nobody couldn't git me tuh tie no rag on mah
head if Ah had hair lak dat- "
50 <4BP Zor& Ncalc Hurstoii
tf Maybe he make her do it* Maybe he skeered some de rest of
us mens might touch It round dat store, It sho is uh hidden mys-
tery tuh me."
"She sho don't talk much, De way he rears and pitches in de
store sometimes when she make uh mistake is sort of ungodly^
but she don't seem to mind at all. Reckon dey understand one
The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about
Joe's positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to
challenge him, They bowed down to him rather, because he was
all of these things, and then again he was all of these things
because the town bowed down.
Every morning the world flung itself over and exposed the town to
the sun. So Janie had another day. And every day had a store in it,
except Sundays. The store itself was a pleasant place if only she
didn't have to sell things. When the people sat around on the
porch and passed around the pictures of their thoughts for the
others to look at and see, it was nice. The fact that the thought
pictures were always crayon enlargements of life made it even
nicer to listen to.
Take for instance the case of Matt Bonner's yellow mule.
They had him up for conversation every day the Lord sent. Most
especial if Matt was there himself to listen. Sam and Lige and
Waiter were the ringleaders of the mule - talkers. The others direw
in whatever they could chance upon, but it seemed as if Sam and
Lige and Walter could hear and see more about that mule than
the whole county put together. All they needed was to sec Matt's
long spare shape coming down the street and by the time he got
to the porch they were ready for him.
"Mighty glad you come 'long right now, Matt. Me and some
others wuz jus 1 about tuh come hunt yuh. w
52 Jfir Zora Neale Hurston
"Mighty serious matter, man. Serious!!"
"Yeah mam," lige would cut in, dolefully. "It needs yo' strict
attention. You ought not tuh lose no time."
"Whut is it then? You oughta hurry up and tell me."
"Reckon we better not tell yuh heah at de store. It's too for off
tuh do any good. We better all walk on down by Lake Sabefia."
"Whut's wrong, man? Ah ain't after none uh y'alis foolishness
"Dat mule uh yourn, Matt. You better go see 'bout him. He's
"Where 'bouts? Did he wade in de lake and uh alligator
"Worser'n dat. De womenfolks got yo' mule. When Ah come
round de lake 'bout noontime mah wife and some others had 'im
flat on de ground usin' his sides full uh wash board."
The great clap of laughter that they have been holding in ?
bursts out. Sam never cracks a smile. "Yeah, Matt, dat mule so
skinny rill de women is usin' his rib bones foh uh rub-board, and
hangin' things out on his hock-bones tuh dry."
Matt realizes that they have tricked him again and the laugh-
ter makes him mad and when he gets mad he stammers.
"You'se uh stinkin' lie, Sam, and yo' feet ain't mates. Y-y-y-youf"
"Awj man, 'tain't no use in you gittin' mad. Yuh know yuh
don't feed de mule. How he gointuh git fat?"
"Ah-ah-ah d-d -does feed 'iml Ah g-ggived 'im uh fiill cup
uh cawn every fcedin'.*
"Lige knows all about dat cup uh cawn. He hid round yo'
barn and watched yuh. 'Tain't no feed cup you measures dat
cawn outa. It's uh tea cup."
"Ah does feed *im* He's jus' too mean tuh git fat. He stay
poor and rawbony jus' fuh spite. Skcered he'U hafta work some.*
Their Byes Were Watching God <*Sr S3
"Yeah, you feeds 'im. Feeds 'im offa 'come up' and seasons it
wid raw hide."
"Does feed de ornery varmint! Don't keer whut Ah do Ah
can't git long wid 'im. He fights every inch in front uh de plow,
and even lay back his ears tuh kick and bite when Ah go in de stall
tuh feed 'im. n
"Git reconciled, Matt/' lige soothed- "Us ail knows he's
mean. Ah seen 'im when he took after one nh dem Roberts chiliun
in de street and woulda caught 'im and maybe trompied 'im tuh
death if dc wind hadn't of changed all of a sudden. Yuh see dc
youngun wuz tryin' tuh make it tuh de fence uh Starks' onion
patch and dc mule wuz dead in behind 'im and gainin' on *im
every jump, when all of a sudden dc wind changed and blowed de
mule way off his course, him bein' so poor and everything, and
before de ornery varmint couid tack, de youngun had done got
over de fence. " The porch iaughed and Matt got mad again.
"Maybe dc mule takes out after everybody," Sam said,
"'cause he thinks everybody he hear comin' is Matt Bonner
comin' tuh work 'im on uh empty stomach.*
"Aw, naw, aw, naw. You stop dat right now," Walter objected.
"Dat mule don't think Ah iook lak no Matt Bonner. He ain't dat
dumb. If Ah thought he didn't know no better Ah'd have mah
picture took and give it tuh dat mule so's he could learn better.
Ah ain't gointuh 'low 'im tuh hold nothin' lak dat against me."
Matt struggled to say something but his tongue foiled him so
he jumped down off the porch and walked away as mad as he
could be. But that never halted the mule talk. There would be
more stories about how poor the brute was; his age; his evil dispo-
sition and his latest caper. Everybody indulged in mule talk. He
was next to the Mayor in prominence, and made better talking.
Janie loved the conversation and sometimes she thought up
good stories on the mule, but Joe had forbidden her to indulge.
54 4kr £ora Neale Hurston
He didn't want her talking after such trashy people. "You'se Mrs.
Mayor Starks, Janie. I god, Ah can't see what uh woman uh yo'
stability would want tuh be treasurin ' all dat gum-grease from folks
dat don't even own de house dey sleep in. 'Tain't no earthly use.
They's jus' some puny humans playin' round de toes uh Time."
Janie noted that while he didn't talk the mule himself, he sat
and laughed at it. laughed his big heh, hch laugh too. But then
when Lige or Sam or Walter or some of the other big picture talk™
crs were using a side of the world for a canvas, Joe would hustle
her off inside the store to sell something. Look like he took plea-
sure in doing it. Why couldn't he go himself sometimes? She had
come to hate the inside of that store anyway. That Post Office
too. People always coming and asking for mail at the wrong time.
Just when she was trying to count up something or write in an
account book. Get her so hackled she'd make the wrong change
for stamps. Then too, she couldn't read everybody's writing.
Some folks wrote so funny and spelt things different from what
she knew about. As a rule, Joe put up the mail himself, but some-
times when he was off she had to do it herself and it always ended
up in a fuss.
The store itself kept her with a sick headache. The labor of
getting things down off of a shelf or out of a barrel was nothing.
And so long as people wanted only a can of tomatoes or a pound
of rice it was all right. But supposing they went on and said a
pound and a half of bacon and a half pound of lard? The whole
thing changed from a little walking and stretching to a mathe-
matical dilemma. Or maybe cheese was thirty-seven cents a
pound and somebody came and asked for a dime's worth. She
went through many silent rebellions over things like that. Such a
waste of life and time. But Joe kept saying that she could do it if
she wanted to and he wanted her to use her privileges. That was
the rock she was battered against.
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4? 55
This business of the head-rag irked her endlessly. But Jody
was set on it. Her hair was NOT going to show in the store. It
didn*t seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie
how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the
other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in
the store. And one night he had caught Walter standing behind
Janie and brushing the back of his hand back and forth across the
loose end of her braid ever so lightly so as to enjoy the feel of it
without Janie knowing what he was doing. Joe was at the back of
the store and Waiter didn't see him. He felt like rushing forth
with the meat knife and chopping off the offending hand. That
night he ordered Janie to de up her hair around the store. That
was all. She was there in the store for him to look at> not those
others. But he never said things like that. It just wasn't in him.
Take the matter of the yellow muie, for instance.
Late one afternoon Matt came from the west with a halter in
his hand. "Been huntin' fiih mah mule. Anybody seen 'im>" he
"Seen *im soon dis mornin' over behind de schoolhouse,"
Lum said. "'Bout ten o'clock or so. He musta been out all night
tuh be way over dere dat early."
"He wuz," Matt answered. "Seen 'im last night but Ah
couldn't ketch 'im. Ah'm 'bliged mh git 'im in tuhnight 'cause
Ah got some piowin' fuh tuhmorrow. Done promised tuh plow
"Reckon you'll ever git through de job wid dat mule "frame?"
"Aw dat mule is plenty strong. Jus' evil and don't want tuh
"Dat's right. Dey tell me he brought you heah tuh dis town.
Say you started tuh Miccanopy but de mule had better sense and
bmng yuh on heah."
56 fljr Zora Ncale Hurston
"It's nh M-lie! Ah set out fah dis town when Ah left West
'Ton mean tuh tell me you rode dat mule all de way from
Wesr Floridy down heah?"
"Sho he did, Ligc. But he didn't mean tuh. He wuz satisfied
up derc, but de mule wuzn't. So one mornin' he got straddle uh
de mule and he took and brought 'im on off. Mule had seme.
Folks up dat way don't eat biscuit bread but once uh week."
There was always a little seriousness behind the teasing of
Matt, so when he got huffed and walked on off nobody minded.
He was known to buy side-meat by the slice. Carried home little
bags of meal and flour in his hand. He didn't seem to mind too
much so long as it didn't cost him anything.
Aboiit half an hour after he left they heard the braying of the
mule at the edge of the woods. He was coming past die store very
"Less ketch Mattes mule fah 'im and have some fan."
"Now, Lum, you know dat mule ain't airnin' tuh let hisself be
caught. Less watch you do it,"
When the mule was in front of the store, Lum went out and
tackled him. The brute jerked up his head, laid back his ears and
rushed to the attack. Lum had to ran for safety. Five or six more
men left the porch and surrounded the fractious beast, goosing
him in the sides and making him show his temper. But he had
more spirit left than body. He was soon panting and heaving ftom
the effort of spinning his old carcass about. Everybody was having
fan at the mule-baiting. All but Janie,
She snatched her head away from the spectacle and began mut-
tering to herself "They oughta be shamed uh theyselves! Tcasin'
dat poor brute beast lak they is! Done been worked tuh death; done
had his disposition ruint wid mistreatment, and now they got tuh
finish devilin' 'im tuh death. Wisht Ah had mah way wid 'em aii."
Their Byes Were Watching God %p 57
She walked away from the porch and found something to busy
herself with in the back of the store so she did not hear Jody when
he stopped laughing. She didn't know that he had heard her, but
she did hear him yell out, u Lum s I god, dat\s enough! Fall done
had yo' fun now. Stop yo' foolishness and go tell Matt Bonner Ah
wants tub have uh talk wid him right away"
Janie came back out front and sat down. She didn't say any-
thing and neither did Joe. But after a while he looked down at his
feet and said, u Janie, Ah reckon you better go fetch me dem old
black gaiters. Dese tan shoes sets mah feet on fire. Plenty room in
'em, but they hurts regardless."
She got up without a word and went off for the shoes. A little
war of defense for helpless things was going on inside her. People
ought to have some regard for helpless things. She wanted to fight
about it. "But Ah hates disagreement and confusion, so Ah better
not talk. It makes it hard tuh git along. w She didn't hurry back.
She fumbled around long enough to get her face straight. When
she got back, Joe was talking with Matt.
"Fifteen dollars? I god you\sc as crazy as uh betsy bug! Five
"L4-less we strack uh compermise, Brother Mayor. Less
m-make it ten."
"Five dollars. " Joe rolled his cigar in his mouth and rolled his
eyes away indifferently.
u If dat mule is wuth somethin' tuh you, Brother Mayor, he's
wuth mo' tuh me. More special when Ah got uh job uh work
"All right, Brother Mayor. If you wants tuh rob uh poor
man lak me uh everything he got tuh make uh livin' wid, Ahll take
de five dollars. Dat mule been wid me twenty-three years. It's
58 4? Zora Ncate Hurston
Mayor Starks deliberately changed his shoes before he
reached into his pocket for the money By that time Matt was
wringing and twisting like a hen on a hot brick. But as soon as his
hand closed on the money his face broke into a grin.
"Beatyuh tradin' dat time, Starks! Dat mule is liable tnh be
dead befo' de week is out. You won't git no work oata him."
"Didn't buy 'im fuh no work. I god, Ah bought dat varmint
tuh let 'im rest. You didn't have gumption enough tuh do it."
A respectful silence fell on the place. Sam looked at Joe and
said, "Dat's uh new idea 'bout varmints, Mayor Starks. But All laks
it mah ownseif. It's uh noble thing you done." Everybody agreed
Janie stood still while they all made comments. When it was
all done she stood in front of Joe and said, "Jody, dat wuz uh
mighty fine thing fuh you tuh do. 'Tain't everybody would have
thought of it, 'cause it ain't no everyday thought. Freein' dat
mule makes uh mighty big man outa you. Something like George
Washington and Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, he had de whole
United States tuh rule so he freed de Negroes. You got uh town
so you freed uh mule. You have tuh have power tuh free things
and dat makes you lak uh king uh something."
Hambo said, "Yo' wife is uh born orator, Starks. Us never
knowed dat befo'. She put jus' de right words tuh our thoughts,"
Joe bit down hard on his cigar and beamed all around, but he
never said a word. The town talked it for three days and said
that's just what they would have done if they had been rich men
like Joe Starks. Anyhow a free mule in town was something new
to talk about. Starks piled fodder under the big tree near the
porch and the mule was usually around the store like the other
citizens. Nearly everybody took the habit of fetching along a
handful of fodder to throw on die pile. He almost got fat and
they took a great pride in him. New lies sprung up about his free-
Their Eyes Were Watching God jfir 59
mule doings, How he pushed open Lindsay's kitchen door and
slept in the place one night and fought until they made coffee for
his breakfast; how he stuck his head in the Pearsons' window
while the family was at the table and Mrs. Pearson mistook him
for R£v. Pearson and handed him a plate; he ran Mrs, Tully off of
the croquet ground for having such an ugly shape; he ran and
caught up with Becky Anderson on the way to Maitland so as to
keep his head out of the sun under her umbrella; he got tired of
listening to Redmond's long-winded prayer, and went inside the
Baptist church and broke up the meeting. He did everything but
let himself be bridled and visit Matt Bonner.
But way after a while he died. Lum found him under the big
tree on his rawbony back with all four feet up in the air. That wasn't
natural and it didn't look right, but Sam said it would have been
more unnatural for him to have laid down on his side and died like
any other beast. He had seen Death coming and had stood his
ground and fought it like a natural man, He had fought it to the last
breath, Naturally he didn't have time to straighten himself out,
Death had to take him like it found him,
When the news got around, it was like the end of a war or
something like that, Everybody that could knocked off from
work to stand around and talk. But finally there was nothing to
do but drag him out like all other dead brutes, Drag him out to
the edge of the hammock which was far enough off to satisfy san~
itary conditions in the town. The rest was up to the buzzards,
Everybody was going to the dragging^out, The news had got
Mayor Starks out of bed before time, His pair of gray horses was
out under the tree and the men were fooling with the gear when
Janie arrived at the store with Joe's breakfast,
"I god, Lum, you fasten up dis store good befo* you leave,
you hear mc?" He was eating fast and talking with one eye out of
the door on the operations,
60 <4gp Zora Ncalc Humtm
"Whut you tcllisi* y im tuh fasten up for, Jody?" Janie asked,
"'Cause it won't be nobody heah tuh look after dc store.
Ah'm goin' tuh dc draggin'-out mahsclf."
"TTain't nothin' so important Ah got tuh do tuhday Jody.
How come Ah can't go long wid you tuh de draggin'-out?"
Joe was struck speechless for a minute. "Why, Janie! You
wouldn't be seen at uh draggin'-out, wouldja? Wid any and
everybody in uh passle pushin > and shovin' wid they no-manners
selves? Naw, naw!"
*You would be dere wid mc, wouldn't yuh?**
"Dat's right, but Ah'm uh man even if Ah is de Mayor. But
dc mayor's wife is somethin' different again. Anyhow they's
liable tuh need me tuh say uh few words over de carcass, dis bein'
uh special case. But you ain't goin' off in all dat mess uh com-
monness. Ah'm surprised atyuh fuh askin'."
He wiped his lips of ham gravy and put on his hat. "Shet de
door behind yuh> Janie. hum is too busy wid de hawses."
After more shouting of advice and orders and useless com-
ments, the town escorted the carcass off. No, the carcass moved
off with the town, and left Janie standing in the doorway.
Out in the swamp they made great ceremony over the mule.
They mocked everything human in death. Starks led off with a
great eulogy on our departed citizen, our most distinguished cit-
izen and the grief he left behind bim, and the people loved the
speech. It made him more solid than building the schoolhouse
had done. He stood on the distended belly of die mule for a plat-
form and made gestures. When he stepped down, they hoisted
Sam up and he talked about the mule as a school teacher first.
Then he set his hat like John Pearson and imitated his preaching.
He spoke of die joys of mule-heaven to which the dear brother
had departed this valley of sorrow^ the mule-angels flying
Their Eyes Were Watching God ^Sr 61
around; the miles of green corn and cool water, a pasture of pure
bran with a river of molasses running through it- and most glori-
ous of all, No Matt Bonner with plow lines and halters to come in
and corrupt , Up there, mule -angels would have people to ride on
and from his place beside the glittering throne, the dear departed
brother would look down into hell and see the devil plowing
Matt Bonner all day long in a hell-hot. sun and laying the raw-
hide to his back,
With that the sisters got mock- happy and shouted and had to
be held up by the menfolks, Everybody enjoyed themselves to the
highest and then finally the mule was left to the already impatient
buzzards. They were holding a great flying-meet way up over the
heads of the mourners and some of the nearby trees were already
peopled with the stoop-shouldered forms.
As soon as the crowd was out of sight they closed in circles,
The near ones got nearer and the far ones got near. A circle, a
swoop and a hop with spread-out wings, Close in, close in till
some of the more hungry or daring perched on the carcass, They
wanted to begin, but the Parson wasn't there, so a messenger was
sent to the ruler in a tree where he sat.
The. flock had to wait die white-headed leader, but it was
hard, They jostled each other and pecked at heads in hungry irri-
tation, Some walked up and down the beast from head to tail, tail
to head, The Parson sat motionless in a dead pine tree about two
miles off, He had scented the matter as quickly as any of the rest,
but decorum demanded that he sit oblivious until he was noti-
fied. Then he took off with ponderous flight and circled and low-
ered, circled and lowered until the others danced in joy and
hunger at his approach,
He finally lit on the ground and walked around the body to
see if it were really dead, Peered into its nose and mouth,
Examined it well from end to end and leaped upon it and
62 JSP Zora Meale Humon
bowed, and the others danced a response. That being over, he
balanced and asked:
"What killed this man?"
The chorus answered, "Bare, bare fat."
"What killed this man?"
"Bare, bare fat."
"What killed this man?"
"Bare, bare fet*
"Who'll stand his funeral?"
"Well, all right now."
So he picked out the eyes in the ceremonial way and the feast
went on. The yaller mule was gone from the town except for the
porch talk, and for the children visiting his bleaching bones now
and then in the spirit of adventure.
Joe returned to the store full of pleasure and good humor but
he didn*t want Janie to notice it because he saw that she was
sullen and he resented that. She had no right to be, the way he
thought things out. She wasn't even appreciative of his efforts
and she had plenty cause to be. Here he was just pouring honor
all over her; building a high chair for her to sit in and overlook
the world and she here pouting over it! Not that he wanted any™
body else, but just too many women would be glad to be in her
place. He ought to box her jaws! But he didn't feel like fighting
today, so he made an attack upon her position backhand.
*Ah had tuh laugh at de people out derc in de woods dis
mornin\ Janie. You can't help but laugh at de capers they cuts.
But all the same, Ah wish mah people would git mo* business in
'em and not spend so much rime on foolishness."
"Everybody can't be lak you, Jody. Somebody is bound tuh
want tuh laugh and play."
Their Byes Were Watching God 63
"Who don't love tuh laugh and play?"
"You make out like you don't, anyhow-"
"I god, Ah don't make out no such uh lie! But it's uh time
full all things- But it's awful tuh see so many people don't want
nothtn* but uh Ml belly and uh place tuh lay down and sleep
afterwards, It makes me sad sometimes and then agin it makes
me mad- r Fhey say things sometimes that tickies mc nearly tuh
death, but Ah won't laugh jus' tuh dis-incourage 'em-" Janie
took the easy way away from a fuss- She didn't change her mind
but she agreed with her mouth- Her heart said, "Even so, but
you don't have to cry about it-"
But sometimes Sam Watson and Ligc Moss forced a belly
iaugh out of Joe himself with their eternal arguments- It never
ended because there was no end to reach- It was a contest in
hyperbole and carried on for no other reason-
Maybe Sam would be sitting on the porch when Lige walked
up- If nobody was thereto speak of, nothing happened- But if the
town was there like on Saturday night, Lige would come up with
a very grave air- Couldn't even pass the time of day, for being so
busy thinking- Then when he was asked what was the matter in
order to start him off, he'd say, "Dts question done 'bout drove
mc crazy. And Sam, he know so much into things, Ah wants some
information on de subject,"
Walter Thomas was due to speak up and egg the matter on-
"Ycah, Sam always got more information than he know what to do
wid. He's bound to tell yuh whatever it is you wants tuh know n
Sam begins an elaborate show of avoiding the struggle- That
draws everybody on the porch into it-
"How come you want me tub tell yuh? You always claim
God done met you round de corner and talked His inside busi-
ness wid yuh. 'Tain't no use in you askin' me nothin\ Ah*m
64 Zora Ncale Hurston
"How you gointuh do dat, Sam > when Ah arrived dis con-
versation mahsclf? Ah'm askin* you?'"
"Askin' mc what? You ain't told me de subjick yit-"
"Don't aim tuh tell yuh! Ah aims tuh keep yith in de dark all
de time- If you*se smart lak you let on you is, you kin find out-"
"Yuh skeered to lemme know whut it is, 'cause yuh know
Ab'll tear it tuh pieces- You got to have a subjick tuh talk from,
do yuh can't talk- If uh man ain*t got no bounds, he ain't got no
piace tuh stop- 1 '
By this time, they are the center of the world,
^Wcll all right then. Since you own up you ain*t smart enough
tuh find out whut Ah'm talkin' *bout ? Ah'll tell you- Whut is it dat
keeps uh man from gettin' burnt on uh red-hot stove — caution or
"Shucks! Ah thought you had somethin' hard tuh ast me-
Walter kin teil yuh dat-"
"If de conversation is too deep for yuh, how come yuh don't
tell me so, and hush up? Walter can't tell me nothin' uh de kind-
Ah'm uh educated man, All keeps mail arrangements in mah
hands, and if it kept me up ail nightlong studyin* 'bout it, Walter
ain't liable tuh be no help to me. Ah needs uh man lak you."
"And then agin, Lige, Ah'm gointuh tell yuh- Ah'm gointuh
run dis conversation from uh gnat heel to uh lice- It's nature dat
keeps uh man off of uh red-hot stove-"
"Uuh huuh? Ah knowed you would going tuh crawl up in
dat holler! But Ah aims tuh smoke yuh right out- 'Tain't no
nature at all, it's caution, Sam."
"'Tain't no sich uh thing! Nature tells yuh not tuh fool wid
no red-hot stove, and you don't do it neither-"
"Listen* Sam, if it was nature, nobody wouldn't have tuh look
out for babies touchin' stoves, would they? 'Cause dey just natu-
rally wouldn't touch it- But dey sho will- So it's caution."
Their Eyes Were Watching God <Qr 65
"Naw it ain't, it's nature, cause nature makes caution. It's de
strongest thing dat God ever made, now. Fact is it's de onliest
thing God ever made. He made nature and nature made every-
"Naw nature didn't neither. A whole heap of things ain't
even been made yit"
"Tell me somethin' you know of dat nature ain't made."
"She ain't made it so you kin ride uh butt-hcaded cow and
hold on tuh de horns. "
"Yeah, but dat ain't yo' point/
"Yeah it is too."
"Naw it ain't neither/
"Well what is mah point?"
"You ain't got none, so far."
"Yeah he is too," Walter cut in. "Dc red-hot stove is his
"He know mighty much, but he ain't proved it yit
"Sam, Ah say it's caution, not nature dat keeps folks off uh
"How is de son gointuh be before his paw? Nature is de first
of everything. Ever since self was self, nature been keepin' folks
off of red-hot stoves. Dat caution you talkin' 'bout ain't nothin'
but uh humbug. He's uh inseck dat nothin' he got belongs to
him. He got eyes, lak somethin' else; wings lak somethin' else —
everything! Even his hum is de sound of somebody else."
"Man, whut you talkin' 'bout? Caution is de greatest thing in
de world. If it wasn't for caution — "
"Show me somethin' dat caution ever made! Look whut
nature took and done. Nature got so high in uh black hen she got
tuh lay uh white egg. Now you tell me, how come, whut got
intuh man dat he got tuh have hair round his mouth? Nature!"
66 Zora Ncale Hurston
The porch was boiling now. Starks left the store to Hezekiah
Potts, the delivery boy, and come took a scat in his high chair.
"Look at dat great big ok scoundrel -beast up dere at HalPs
fillin' station — uh great big old scoundrel. He eats up all de folks
outa de house and den eat de house."
"Aw 'tain't no sich a varmint nowhere dat kin eat no house!
Dat's uh lie. Ah wuz dere yiste'ddy and Ah ain't seen nothin' lak
dat. Where is he?"
"Ah didn't see him but Ah reckon he is in dc back -yard some
place. But dey got his picture out front dere. They was nailiii* it
up when Ah come pass dere dis evenin'."
"Well all right now, if he eats up houses how come he don't
eat up de Min' station?"
"Dat's 'cause dey got him tied up so he can't. Dey got uh
great big picture teliin' how many gallons of dat Sinclair high-
compression gas he drink at one time and how he's more'n uh
million years old."
"'Tain't nothin' no million years old!"
"De picture is right up dere where anybody kin see it. Dey
can't make dc picture till dey see de thing, kin dey?"
"How dey goin' to tell he's uh million years old? Nobody
wasn't born dat fur back."
"By de rings on his tail Ah reckon. Man, desc white folks got
ways for tellin' anything dey wants tuh know."
"Well, where he been at all dis time, then?"
"Dey caught him over dere in Egypt. Seem lak he used tuh
hang round dere and eat up dem Pharaohs' tombstones. Dey got
dc picture of him doin' it. Nature is high in uh varmint lak dat.
Nature and salt. Dat's whut makes up strong man Jak Big John de
Conquer He was uh man wid salt in him. He could give uh fla~
vox to anything"
"Yeah, but he was uh man dat wuz more'n man. Tain't no
Their Byes Were Watching God 67
mo' lak him. He wouldn't dig potatoes and he wouldn't rake hay:
He wouldn't take a whipping, and he wouldn't run away."
"Oh yeah, somebody else couid if dey tried hard enough- Me
mahself, Ah got salt in me. If Ah like man flesh, Ah could eat some
man every day, some of 'em is so trashy they'd let me eat 'em/'
"Lawd, Ah loves to talk about Big John. Ixss we tell lies on
But here come Bootsie, and Teadi and Big 'oman down the
street making out they are pretty by the way they walk. They have
got that fresh, new taste about them like young mustard greens
in the spring, and the young men on the porch are just bound to
tell them about it and buy them some treats.
tf Heah come mah order right now," Charlie Jones announces
and scrambles off the porch to meet them. But he has plenty of
competition. A pushing, shoving show of gallantry. They all beg
the girls to just boy anything they can think of. Please let them
pay for it. Joe is begged to wrap up all the candy in the store and
order more. All the peanuts and soda water— everything!
"Gal, Ah'm crazy 'bout you," Charlie goes on to the enter-
tainment of everybody. "Ah'll do anything in the world except
work for you and give you mah money.*'
The girls and everybody else help laugh. They know it's not
courtship. It's acting-out courtship and everybody is in the play.
The three girls hold the center of the stage till Daisy Blunt comes
walking down the street in the moonlight.
Daisy is walking a drum tune. You can almost hear it by look-
ing at the way she walks. She is black and she knows that white
clothes look good on her, so she wears them for dress up. She's
got those big black eyes with plenty shiny white in them that
makes them shine like brand new money and she knows what
God gave women eyelashes for, too. Her hair is not what you
might call straight. It's negro hair, but it's got a kind of white fla-
68 Zora Ncalc Hurston
vor. Like the piece of string out of a ham. It's not ham at all, but
it's been around ham and got the flavor. It was spread down thick
and heavy over her shoulders and looked just right under a big
"Lawd, Lawd> Lawd," that same Charlie Jones exclaims
rushing over to Daisy. "It must be uh recess in heben if St. Peter
is lcttin' his angels out lak dis. You got three men already layin* at
de point uh death 'bout yuh, and heah's uhnother fool dafs
willin' tuh make time on yo* gang"
All the rest of the single men have crowded around Daisy by
this time. She is parading and blushing at the same time.
"If you know anybody dat's 'bout tub die 'bout me, yuh know
more'n Ah do," Daisy bridled. tf Wisht Ah knowed who it is."
"Now, Daisy, you know Jim ? and Dave and Lum is 'bout tuh
kill one 'nother 'bout you. Don't stand up here and tell dat big
"Dey a mighty hush-mouf about it if dey is. Dey ain't never
"Unhunh, you talked too fast. Heah, Jim and Dave is right
upon de porch and Lum is inside de store."
A big burst of laughter at Daisy's discomfiture. The boys had
to act out their rivalry too. Only this time, everybody knew they
meant some of it. But all the same the porch enjoyed the play and
helped out whenever extras were needed.
David said, "Jim don'tlove Daisy. He don'tloveyuhlak Ah do. *
Jim bellowed indignantly, "Who don't love Daisy? Ah know
you ain't taikio' 'bout me."
Dave: "Well all right, less prove dis thing right now. Well
prove right now who love dis gal de best. How much time is you
willin' tuh make fob Daisy?"
Jim: "Twenty ycahsi"
Dave: "Sec? Ah told yuh dat nigger didn't love yuh. Me,
Their Eyes Were Watching God 69
Ah'll beg de Judge tuh hang me, and wouldn't take nothin' less
There was a big long laugh from the porch. Then Jim had to
demand a test.
"Pave, how much would you be wiilin' tuh do for Daisy if
she was to turn fool enough tuh marry yuh?"
"Me and Daisy done talked dat over, but if you just got tuh
know, Ah'd buy Daisy uh passenger train and give it tuh her."
"Humph! Is dat all? Ah'd buy her uh steamship and then
AhM hire some mens tuh run it far her.' 1
"Daisy, don't let Jim fool you wid his talk. He don't aim tuh
do nothin' fuh yuh. Uh lil ole steamship! Daisy, Ah '11 take uh job
cleanin* out de Atlantic Ocean ftih you any time you say you so
desire." There was a great laugh and then they hushed to listen.
"Daisy," Jim began, "you know mah heart and all de ranges
uh mah mind. And you know if Ah wuz ridin* up in uh earoplane
way up in de sky and Ah looked down and seen you walkin' and
knowed you'd have tuh walk ten miles tuh git home, Ah'd step
backward offe dat earoplane just to walk home wid you. *
There was one of those big blow-out laughs and Janie was
wallowing in it. Then Jody ruined it all for her.
Mrs. Bogie came walking down the street towards the
porch. Mrs. Bogle who was many times a grandmother, but had
a blushing air of coquetry about her that cloaked her sunken
cheeks. You saw a fluttering fan before her face and magnolia
blooms and sleepy lakes under the moonlight when she walked.
There was no obvious reason for it, it was just so. Her first hus-
band had been a coachman but "studied jury" to win her. He
had finally become a preacher to hold her till his death. Her
second husband worked in Fohnes orange grove— but tried to
preach when he caught her eye. He never got any farther than
a class leader, but that was something to offer her. It proved his
70 Hp Zora Neal.e Humon
love and pride- She was a wind on the ocean- She moved men,
but the helm determined the port- Now, this night she
mounted the steps and the men noticed her until she passed
inside the door-
"I. god, Janie," Starks said impatiently, "why don't you go on
and see whut Mrs- Bogle want? Whut you waitin' on?**
Janie wanted to hear the rest of the play-acting and how it
ended, but she got up sullenly and went inside- She came back to
the porch with her bristles sticking out ail over her and with dis-
satisfaction written all over her (ace. Joe saw it and lifted his own
hackles a bit-
Jim Weston had secretly borrowed a dime and soon he was
loudly beseeching Daisy to have a treat on him- Finally she con-
sented to take a pickled pig foot on him- Janie was getting up a
large order when they came in, so Lum waited on them- That is,
he went back to the keg but came back without the pig foot-
*Mist' Starks, de pig feets is all goneP he calJed out-
"Aw naw dey ain't, Lum- Ah bought uh whole new kag of
'em wid dat last order from Jacksonville- It come in yistiddy-"
Joe came and helped Lum look but he couldn't find the new
keg either, so he went to the nail over his desk that he used for a
fiie to search for the order-
"Jaoie, where's dat iast bill uh iadin'?"
"It's right dere on de nail, ain't it?"
"Naw it ain't neither- You ain't put it where Ah told yuh tuh-
If you'd git yo' mind out de streets and keep it on yo' business
maybe you could git somethin' straight sometimes*
"Aw, look around dere, Jody Dat bill ain't apt tuh be gone
off nowheres- If it ain't hangin' on de nail, it's on yo" desk- You
bound tuh find it if you look."
"Wid you heah, Ah oughtn't tuh hafta do all dat lookin* and
searchin'- Ah done told you time and time agin tuh stick all dem
Their Byes Were Watching God J&p 71
papers on dat nail! All you got tub do is mind me- How come you
can't do lak Ah tell yuh?"
"You sho loves to teli mc whur to do, but Ah can't tell you
nothin' Ah see!"
"Dat's 'cause you need tellin\" he rejoined hotly "It would
be pitiful if Ah didn't- Somebody got to think for women and
chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don't think none
"Ah knows uh few things, and womenfolks thinks sometimes
*Aw naw they don't. They just think they's thinkin'- When
Ah sec one thing Ah understands ten- You see ten things and
don't understand one-"
Times and scenes like that put Janie to thinking about the
inside state of her marriage- Time came when she fought back
with her tongue as best she could, but it didn*t do her any good-
It just made Joe do more- He wanted her submission and he'd
keep on fighting until he felt he had it-
So gradually, she pressed her teeth togcdier and learned to
hush- The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to liv-
ing in the parlor- It was there to shake hands whenever company
came to visit, but it never went back inside the bedroom again- So
she put something in there to represent the spirit iike a Virgin
Mary image in a church- The bed was no longer a daisy-field for
her and Joe to play in. It was a place where she went and laid down
when she was sleepy and tired.
She wasn't petal-open anymore with him- She was twenty-
four and seven years married when she knew- She found that out
one day when he slapped her face in the kitchen- It happened
over one of those dinners that chasten all women sometimes-
They plan and they fix and they do ? and then some kitchen-
dwelling fiend slips a scorchy, soggy, tasteless mess into their
72 <4BP Zora NeaJe Hurston
pots and pans, Janie was a good cook, and joe had looked for-
ward to his dinner as a refuge from other things. So when the
bread didn't rise, and the fish wasn't quite done at the bone,
and the rice was scorched > he slapped Janie until she had a ring-
ing sound in her ears and told her about her brains before he
stalked on back to the store,
Janie stood where he left her for unmeasured time and
thought. She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside
her Then she went inside there to see what it was, It was her image
of Jody tumbled down and shattered, But looking at it she saw that
it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams, Just some-
thing she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over, In a way she
turned her back upon the image where it lay and looked further,
She had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man,
neither any glistening young fruit where the petals used to be. She
found that she had a host of thoughts she had never expressed to
him, and numerous emotions she had never let Jody know about,
Things packed up and put away in parts of her heart where he
could never find them. She was saving up feelings for some man
she had never seen, She had an inside and an outside now and sud-
denly she knew how not to mix them,
She bathed and put on a fresh dress and head kerchief and
went on to the store before Jody had time to send for her, That
was a bow to the outside of things,
Jody was on the porch and the porch was full of Eatonviile as
usual at this time of the day. He was baiting Mrs, Tony Robbins
as he always did when she came to the store, Janie could see Jody
watching her ou t of the corner of his eye while he joked roughly
with Mrs, Robbins, He wanted to be friendly with her again, His
big, big laugh was as much for her as for the baiting. He was
longing for peace but on his own terms,
"I god, Mrs, Robbins, whut make you come heah and worry
Their Eyes Were Watching God m 73
me when you see Ah'm readin' mah newspaper?" Mayor Starks
lowered the paper in pretended annoyance.
Mrs. Robbins struck her pity pose and assumed the voice.
"Cause Ah'm hongry, Mist' Starks. 'Deed Ah is. Me and
mah chilJun is hongry. Tony don't fee eed me!"
This was what the porch was waiting for. They burst into a
"Mrs. Robbins, how can you make out you'se hongry when
Tony comes in here every Satitday and buys groceries iak a man?
Three weeks' shame on yuh!"
"If he buy all dat you taikin' 'bout, Mist' Starks, God knows
whut he do wid it. He sho don't bring it home, and me and mah
po' chillun is so hongry! MLst' Starks, please gimme uh iil piece uh
meat fur me and mah chillun."
u Ah know you don't need it, but come on inside. You ain't
goin' tufa lemme read till Ah give it to yuh."
Mrs. Tony's ecstasy was divine. "Thank you, Mist' Starks.
You'se noble! You'se du most gentlemanfied man Ah ever did
see. You'se uh king!"
The salt pork box was in the back of the store and during the
walk Mrs. Tony was so eager she sometimes stepped on Joe's
heels, sometimes she was a little before him. Something like a
hungry cat when somebody approaches her pan with meat. Run-
ning a little, caressing a little and ail the time making little urging-
"Yes, indcedy, Mist' Starks, you'se noble. You got sympathy
for me and mah po' chiliun. Tony don't give us nothin' tuh eat
and we'se so hongry. Tony don't fee-eed me!"
This brought them to the meat box. Joe took up the big
meat knife and selected a piece of side meat to cut. Mrs. Tony was
all but dancing around him.
"Dat's right, Mist' Starks! Gimme uh Iil piece 'bout dis
74 *Zm Zora Ncale Humon
wide-" She indicated as wide as her wrist and hand. "Ale and mah
chillun is so hongry!"
Starks hardly looked at her measurements. He had seen them
too often. He marked off a piece much smaller and sunk the blade
in. Mrs. Tony all but fell to the floor in her agony.
"Lawd a'mussy! Mist' Starks > you ain't gointuh gimme dat lil
tee ninchy piece fuh me and ail mah chillun, is yuh> Lawd, we'se
Starks cut right on and reached for a piece of wrapping paper.
Mrs. Tony leaped away from the proffered cut of meat as if it
were a rattlesnake.
"Ah wouldn't tetch it! Dat lil eyeful uh bacon for me and all
mah chillun! Lawd, some folks is got everything and they's so
gripin' and so mean!"
Starks made as if to throw the meat back in the box and close it.
Mrs. Tony swooped like lightning and seized it, and started towards
"Some folks ain't got no heart in dey bosom. They's willin'
tuh see uh po* woman and her helpless chillun starve tuh death.
God's gointuh put 'em under arrest, some uh dese days, wid dey
stingy gripin' ways. *
She stepped from the store porch and marched off in high
dudgeon! Some laughed and some got mad.
"If dat wuz mah wife," said Walter Thomas, "Ah'd kill her
"More special after Ah done bought her everything mah
wages kin stand, lak Tony do," Coker said. "In de fust place All
never would spend on no woman whut Tony spend on her"
Starks came back and took his seat. He had to stop and add
the meat to Tony's account.
"Weil, Tony tells me tuh humor her along. He moved here
from up de State hopin' tuh change her, but it ain't. He say he
Their Byes Were Watching God 4&r 75
can't bear tuh leave her and he hate to kill her, so 'tain't nothin'
mh do but put up wid her."
"Dat's 'cause Tony love her too good," said Coker. "Ah
could break her if she wuz jnine. Ah'd break her or kill her
Matin' uh fool outa me in front of everybody."
"Tony won't never hit her He says beatin' women is just like
steppm' on baby chickens. He claims 'tain't no place on uh woman
tuh hit " Joe Lindsay said with scornful disapproval, "but Ah'd kill
uh baby just born dis mawnin' fbh uh thing lak dat. 'Tain't nothin'
but low down spitefblness 'ginst her husband make her do it."
"Dat's de God's truth," Jim Stone agreed. "Dat's de very
Janie did what she had never done before, that is, thrust her-
self into the conversation.
"Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and
talks His inside business. He told me how surprised He was 'bout
y'all turning out so smart after Him makin' yuh different; and how
surprised y'all is goin' tuh be if you ever find out you don't know
half as much 'bout us as you think you do. It's so easy to make yo'~
self out God Almighty when you ain't got nodiin' tuh strain
against but women and chickens."
"You gettin' too moufy, Janie," Starks told her. "Go fetch me
de checker- board and de checkers. Sam Watson, you^se mah fish."
The years took all the fight out of J ante's face. For a while she
thought it was gone from her soul- No matter what Jody did,
she said nothing. She had learned how to talk some and leave
some- She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the sur-
face but it was kept beaten down by the wheels. Sometimes she
stuck out into the nature, imagining her life different from
what it was. But mostly she lived between her hat and her
heels, with her emotional disturbances like shade patterns in
the woods — come and gone with the sun. She got nothing
from Jody except what money could buy, and she was giving
away what she didn't value.
Now and again she thought of a country road at sun-up and
considered flight. To where? To what? Then too she considered
thirty-five is twice seventeen and nothing was the same at all.
"Maybe he ain't nothing" she cautioned herself, "but he is
something in my mouth. He's got tuh be else Ah ain't got
nothin' tuh live for. Ahll lie and say he is. If Ah don't, life won't
be nothin' but uh store and uh house."
She didn't read books so she didn't know that she was the
world and the heavens boiled down to a drop. Man attempting to
climb to painless heights from his dung hill.
Their Eyes Were Watching God 77
Then one day she sat and watched the shadow of herself
going about tending store and prostrating itself before Jody,
while all the time she herself sat under a shady tree with the wind
blowing through her hair and her clothes. Somebody near about
making summertime out of lonesomeness.
This was the first time it happened, but after a while it got so
common she ceased to be surprised. It was like a drug. In a way
it was good because it reconciled her to things. She got so she
received ail things with the stolidness of the earth which soaks up
urine and perfume with the same indifference.
One day she noticed that Joe didn't sit down. He just stood
in front of a chair and fell in it. That made her look at him all
over. Joe wasn't so young as he used to be, There was already
something dead about him. He didn't rear back in his knees any
longer. He squatted over his ankles when he walked. That still-
ness at the back of his neck. His prosperous-looking belly that
used to thrust out so pugnaciously and intimidate folks, sagged
like a load suspended from his loins. It didn't seem to be a part of
him anymore. Eyes a little absent too.
Jody must have noticed it too. Maybe, he had seen it iong
before Janie did, and had been fearing for her to see. Because he
began to talk about her age all the time, as if he didn't want her
to stay young while he grew old. It was always "You oughta
throw somethin' over yo' shoulders befo' you go outside. You
ain't no young pullet no mo'. You'se uh ole hen now." One day
he called her off the croquet grounds. "Dat's somethin' for de
young folks, Janie, you out derc jumpin' round and won't be
able tuh git out de bed tuhmorrer." If he thought to deceive
her, he was wrong. For the first time she could see a man's head
naked of its skull. Saw the cunning thoughts race in and out
through the caves and promontories of his mind long before
they darted out of the tunnel of his mouth. She saw he was
78 Zora Neaie Hurston
hurting inside so she iet it pass without talking. She just mea-
sured out a little time for him and set it aside to wait.
It got to be terrible in the store. The more his back ached and
his muscle dissolved into fat and the fat meited off his bones, the
more fractious he became with Janie. Especially in the store. The
more peopic in there the more ridicule he poured over her body
to point attention away from his own. So one day Steve Mixon
wanted some chewing tobacco and Janie cut it wrong. She hated
that tobacco knife anyway. It worked very stiff*. She fambied with
the thing and cut way away from the mark. Mixon didn't mind.
He held it up for a joke to tease Janie a little.
"Looka heah, Brother Mayor, whut yo* wife done took and
done. 7 * It was cut comical, so everybody laughed at it. *Uh woman
and uh knife — no Mnd of uh knife, don't b'long tuhgether" lliere
was some more good-natured laughter at the expense of women.
Jody didn't laugh. He hurried across from the post office side
and took the plug of tobacco away from Mixon and cut it again.
Cut it exactly on the mark and glared at Janie.
tf I god amighty! A woman stay round uh store till she get old
as Mctliusalem and still can't cut a little thing like a plug of
tobacco! Don't stand dere roUin' yo' pop eyes at me wid yo*
rump hangin' nearly to yo' knees!"
A big laugh started off in the store but peopic got to think*
ing and stopped. It was funny if you looked at it right quick, but
it got pitiful if you thought about it awhile. It was like somebody
snatched off part of a woman's clothes while she wasn't looking
and the streets were crowded. Then too, Janie took the middle of
the floor to talk right into Jody's face, and that was something
that hadn't been done before,
"Stop inixin* up mah doings wid mah looks, Jody. When you
git through teliin' me how tuh cut uh plug uh tobacco, then you
kin tell me whether mah behind is on straight or not."
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4Br 79
"Wha— whut's dat you say, Janie> You must be out yo* head."
u Naw > Ah ain't outa mah head neither.**
"You must be. Talkin* any such language as dat."
"You de one started taikin' under people's clothes. Not me."
"Whut's de matter wid you, nohow? You ain't no young girl
to be gcttin* all insulted 'bout yo > looks. You ain't no young
courtin* gal. You'se uh oic woman, nearly forty."
"Yeah, Ah'm nearly forty and you'se already fifty. How come
you can't talk about dat sometimes instead of always pointin* at
"T' ain't no use in getrin' all mad, Janie, 'cause Ah mention
you ain't no young gal no mo'. Nobody in heah ain't lookin' for
no wife outa yuh. Old as you is."
"Naw, Ah ain't no young gal no mo' but den Ah ain't no old
woman neither. Ah reckon Ah looks mah age too. But Ah'm uh
woman every inch of me, and Ah know it. Dat's uh whole lot
more'n you kin say. You big-bellies round here and put out a lot
of brag, but 'tain't nothin' to it but yo* big voice. Humph!
Talldn' 'bout me lookin' old! When you pull down yo* britches,
you look iak de change uh life."
"Great God from Zion!" Sam Watson gasped. "Y'all really
playin' de dozens tuhnight."
"Wha — whut's dat you said?" Joe challenged, hoping his ears
had fooled him.
"You heard her, you ain't blind," Walter taunted.
"Ah ruther be shot with tacks than tuh hear dat 'bout mah-
self," Lige Moss commiserated.
Then Joe Starks realized all the meanings and his vanity bled
like a flood. Janie had robbed him of his illusion of irresistible
maleness that all men cherish, which was terrible. The thing that
Saul's daughter had done to David. But Janie had done worse, she
had cast down his empty armor before men and they had laughed,
80 i&r Zora Neale Hurston
would keep on laughing. When he paraded his possessions here-
after, they would not consider the two together. They'd look with
envy at the things and pity the man that owned them. When he sat
in judgment it would be the same. Good-for-nothing's like Dave
and Lum and Jim wouldn't change place with him. For what can
excuse a man in the eyes of other men for lack of strength?
Raggedy-behind squirts of sixteen and seventeen would be giving
him their merciless pity out of their eyes while their mouths said
something humble. There was nothing to do in life anymore.
Ambition was useless. And the cruel deceit of Janic! Making all
that show of humbleness and scorning him all the time! Laughing
at him, and now putting the town up to do the same. Joe Starks
didn't know the words for ail this, but he knew the feeling. So he
struck janie with all his might and drove her from the store.
After that night Jody moved his things and slept in a room downstairs.
He didn't really hate Janie, but he wanted her to think so, He had
crawled off to lick his wounds. They didn't talk too much around
the store cither Anybody that didn't know would have thought
that things had blown over, it looked so quiet and peaceful
around. But die stillness was the sleep of swords. So new thoughts
had to be thought and new words said. She didn't want to live like
that. Why must Joe be so mad with her for making him look small
when he did it to her ail the time> Had been doing it for years,
Well, if she must cat out of a long-handled spoon, she must. Jody
might get over his mad spell any time at all and begin to act like
somebody towards her,
Then too she noticed how baggy Joe was getting all over.
Like bags hanging from an ironing board , A little sack hung from
the corners of his eyes and rested on his cheek-bones; a loose-
filled bag of feathers hung from his ears and rested on his neck
beneath his chin, A sack of flabby something hung from his loins
and rested on his thighs when he sat down, But even these things
were running down like candle grease as time moved on.
He made new alliances too, People he never bothered with
one way or another now seemed to have his ear. He had always
82 ^Br Zora Neale Hursion
been scornful of root-doctors and all their kind, but now she saw a
faker from over around Altamonte Springs, hanging around the
place almost daily. Always talking in low tones when she came near,
or hushed altogether. She didn't know that he was driven by a des-
perate hope to appear the old-time body in her sight. She was sorry
about the root-doctor because she feared that Joe was depending
on the scoundrel to make him well when what he needed was a
doctor, and a good one. She was worried about his not eating his
meals> till she found out he was having old iady Davis to cook for
him. She knew that she was a much better cook than the old
woman, and cleaner about the kitchen. So she bought a beef-bone
and made him some soup.
"Naw, thank you/' he told her shortly. " Ah'm havin' uh hard
enough time tuh try and git well as it is."
She was stunned at first and hurt afterwards. So she went
straight to her bosom friend, Pheoby Watson, and told her about it.
"Ah'd ruther be dead than for Jody tuh think Ah'd hurt
him," she sobbed to Pheoby. u It ain't always been too pleasant,
'cause you know how Joe worships de works of his own hands,
but God in heben knows Ah wouldn't do one thing tuh hurt
nobody. It's too underhand and mean."
"Janie, Ah though maybe de thing would die down and you
never would know nothin' 'bout it, but it's been singin' round
here ever since de big fuss in de store dat Joe was 'fixed' and you
wuz de one dat did it."
"Pheoby, for de longest time, Ah been feelin' dat somethin'
set for still- bait, but dis is — is — oh Pheoby! Whut kin I do?"
"You can't do nothin' but make out you don't know it. It's
too late fiih y'all tuh be splittin' up and gittin' divorce. Just gVan
back home and set down on yo' royal diasticuris and sSay nothin'.
Nobody don't b'lieve it nohow."
"Tuh think Ah been wid Jody twenty yeahs and Ah just now
Their Eyes Were Watching God 83
got tuh bear de name uh poisonin' him! It's 'bout to Mil me,
Pheoby. Sorrow dogged by sorrow is in mah heart. "
"Dat's lie dat trashy nigger dat calls hisself uh two-headed
doctor brought tuh 'im in order tuh git in wid Jody. He seen he
wuz sick — everybody been knowin' dat for de last longest, and
den Ah reckon he heard y'all wuz kind of at variance, so dat wuz
his chance. Last summer dat multiplied cockroach wuz round
heah tryin' tuh sell gophers!"
"Pheoby, Ah don't even b'lieve Jody b'lieve dat lie. He ain't
never took no stock in dc mess. He just make out he b'lieve it tuh
hurt me. Ah'm stone dead from standin' still and tryin' tuh
She cried often in the weeks that followed. Joe got too weak
to look after things and took to his bed. But he relentiessly
refused to admit her to his sick room. People came and went in
the house. This one and that one came into her house with cov-
ered plates of broth and other sick-room dishes without taking
the least notice of her as Joe's wife. People who never had known
what it was to enter the gate of the Mayor's yard unless it were to
do some menial job now paraded in and out as his confidants.
They came to the store and ostentatiously looked over whatever
she was doing and went back to report to him at the house. Said
things like "Mr. Starks need somebody tuh sorta look out for 'im
till he kin git on his feet again and look for hisself. n
But Jody was never to get on his feet again. Janie had Sam
Watson to bring her the news from the sick room, and when he
told her how things were, she had him bring a doctor from
Orlando without giving Joe a chance to refuse, and without say-
ing she sent for him.
"Just a matter of time," the doctor told her. "When a man's
kidneys stop working altogether, there is no way for him to live.
He needed medical attention two years ago. Too late now."
84 4^ Zora Ncaie Kucston
So Janie began to think of Death. Death, that strange being
with the huge square toes who lived way in the West. The great
one who lived in the straight house like a platform without sides
to it, and without a roof What need has Death for a cover, and
what winds can blow against him? He stands in his high house
that overlooks the world. Stands watchful and motionless all day
with his sword drawn back, waiting for the messenger to bid him
come. Been standing there before there was a where or a when or
a then. She was liable to find a feather from his wings lying in her
yard any day now She was sad and afraid too. Poor Jody! He
ought not to have to wrassle in there by himself. She sent Sam in
to suggest a visit, but Jody said No. These medical doctors wuz
all right with the Godly sick, but they didn't know a thing about
a case like his. HeM be all right just as soon as the two-headed
man found what had been buried against him. He wasn't going
to die at all. That was what he thought. But Sam told her differ-
ent, so she knew. And then if he hadn't, the next morning she was
bound to know, for people began to gather in the big yard under
the palm and china-berry trees. People who would not have
dared to foot the place before crept in and did not come to the
house. Just squatted under the trees and waited. Rumor, that
wingless bird, had shadowed over the town.
She got up that morning with the firm determination to go
on in there and have a good talk with Jody. But she sat a long
time with the walls creeping in on her Four walls squeezing her
breath out. Fear lest he depart while she sat trembling upstairs
nerved her and she was inside the room before she caught her
breath. She didn't make the cheerful, casual start that she had
thought out. Something stood like an oxen's foot on her tongue,
and then too, Jody, no Joe, gave her a ferocious look. A look with
all the unthinkable coldness of outer space. She must talk to a
man who was ten immensities away.
Their Eyes Were Watching God 85
He was lying on his side facing the door like he was expect-
ing somebody or something. A sort of changing look on his face.
Weak-looking but sharp-pointed about the eyes. Through the
thin counterpane she could see what was left of his belly huddled
before him on the bed like some helpless thing seeking shelter.
The half-w r ashcd bedclothes hurt her pride for Jody. He had
always been so clean.
"Whut you doin' in heah, Janie?"
"Come tuh see 'bout you and how you wuz makin' out."
He gave a deep-growling sound like a hog dying down in the
swamp and trying to drive off disturbance. "Ah come in heah tuh
git shet uh you but look lak hain't doin' me no good. GVan out.
Ah needs tuh rest."
"Naw, Jody, Ah come in heah tuh talk widja and Ah'm goin-
tuh do it too. It's for both of our sakes Ah'm talkin'. "
He gave another ground grumble and cased over on his back.
"Jody, maybe Ah ain't been sicb uh good wife tuh you, but
"Dat's 'cause you ain't got de right feclin' for nobody. You
oughter have some sympathy 'bout yo'self. You ain't no hog."
"But, Jody, Ah meant tuh be awful nice."
"Much as Ah done fah yuh. Holdin' me up tuh scorn. No
"Naw, Jody, it wasn't because Ah didn't have no sympathy.
Ah had uh lavish uh dat. Ah just didn't never git no chance tuh
use none of it. You wouldn't let me."
"Dat's right, blame everything on me. Ah wouldn't let you
show no feelin'! When, Janie, dat's all Ah ever wanted or desired.
Now you come blamin' mef"
"Tain't dat, Jody. Ah ain't here tuh blame nobody. Ah'm
just tryin' tuh make you know what kinda person Ah is befo' it's
86 Jft* Zora Neaie Humon
"Too late?" he whispered.
His eyes buckled in a vacant-mouthed terror and she saw the
awful surprise in his face and answered it.
"Yeah, Jody, don't keer whut dat multiplied cockroach told
yuh tuh git yo' money, you got ruh die, and yuh can't live."
A deep sob came out of Jody's weak frame. It was like beat-
ing a bass drum in a hen-house. Then it rose high like pulling in
"Janie* Janie! don't tell me Ah got tuh die, and Ah ain't used
tuh thinkin* 'bout it."
"'Tain't really no need of you dying, Jody, if you had of— de
doctor — but it don't do no good bringui' dat up now Dafs just
whut Ah wants tuh say, Jody You wouldn't listen. You done lived
wid me for twenty years and you don't half know me atall. And
you could have but you was so busy worshippin' de works of yo'
own hands, and cuffin* folks around in their minds till you didn't
see uh whole heap uh things yuh could have."
"Leave heah, Janie. Don't come heah— "
"Ah knowed you wasn't gointuh lissen tuh me. You changes
everything but nothin' don't change you — not even death.
But Ah ain't goin' outa here and Ah ain't gointuh hush. Naw,
you gointuh listen tuh me one time befe' you die. Have yo'
way all yo' life, trample and mash down and then die ruther
than tuh let yo'self heah 'bout it. listen, Jody, you ain't de
Jody ah run off down de road wid. You'se whut's left after he
died. Ah run off tuh keep house wid you in uh wonderful way.
But you wasn't satisfied wid me de way Ah was. Naw! Mah
own mind had tuh be squeezed and crowded out tuh make
room for yours in me."
"Shut up) Ah wish thunder and lightnin' would kill yuh!"
"Ah know it. And now you got tuh die tuh find out dat you
got tuh pacify somebody besides yo'self if you wants any love and
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4SP 87
any sympathy in dis world. You ain't tried tsih pacify nobody but
yoVlf. Too busy listening tuh yo* own big voice,"
"All dis tearin' down talk!" Jody whispered with sweat glob-
ules forming all over his face and arms, "Git outa heah!"
"All dis bowin* down, all dis obedience under yo* voice — dat
ain't whut Ah rushed off down de road tuh find out about you."
A sound of strife in Jody's throat, but his eyes stared unwill-
ingly into a corner of the room so Janic knew the futile fight was
not with her. The icy sword of the square-toed one had cut off his
breath and left his hands in a pose of agonizing protest. Janic
gave them peace on his breast, then she studied his dead face for
a long time.
"Dis sitrin* in dc ruiin' chair is been hard on Jody," she mut-
tered out loud. She was full of pity for the first time in years. Jody
had been hard on her and others, but life had mishandled him too.
Poor Joe! Maybe if she had known some other way to try, she
might have made his face different. But what that other way could
be, she had no idea. She thought back and forth about what had
happened in the making of a voice out of a man. Then thought
about herself. Years ago, she had told her girl self to wait for her in
the looking glass. It had been a long time since she had remem-
bered. Perhaps she'd better look. She went over to the dresser and
looked hard at her skin and features. The young girl was gone, but
a handsome woman had taken her place. She tore off the kerchief
from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the
length, the glory was there. She took careful stock of herself, then
combed her hair and tied it back up again. Then she starched and
ironed her face, forming it into just what people wanted to see, and
opened up the window and cried, "Come heah people! Jody is
dead. Mah husband is gone from me."
Joe's funeral was the finest thing Orange County had ever seen with
Negro eyes. The motor hearse, the Cadillac and Buick carriages;
Dr. Henderson there in his Lincoln; the hosts from far and wide.
Then again the gold and red and purple, the gloat and glamor of
the secret orders, each with its insinuations of power and glory
undreamed of by the uninitiated. People on farm horses and
mules; babies riding astride of brothers* and sisters' backs. The
Elks band ranked at the church door and playing "Safe in the
Arms of Jesus ? with such a dominant drum rhythm that it could
be stepped off smartly by the long line as it filed inside. The Lit-
de Emperor of the cross-roads was leaving Orange County as he
had come — with the out-stretched hand of power.
Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the funeral
behind her veil. It was like a wall of stone and steel. The funeral
was going on outside. All things concerning death and burial
were said and done. Finish. End. Nevermore. Darkness. Deep
hole. Dissolution. Eternity. Weeping and wailing outside. Inside
the expensive black folds were resurrection and life. She did not
reach outside for anything, nor did the things of death reach
inside to disturb her calm. She sent her face to Joe's funeral, and
herself went rollicking with the springtime across the world.
Their Byes Were Watching God jfcr 89
After a while the people finished their celebration and Janie went
Before she slept that night she burnt up every one of her
head rags and went about the house next morning with her hair
in one thick braid swinging well below her waist. That was the
only change people saw in her. She kept the store in the same way
except of evenings she sat on the porch and listened and sent
Hezekiah in to wait on late custom . She saw no reason to rush at
changing things around. She would have the rest of her life to do
as she pleased.
Most of the day she was at the store, but at night she was
there in the big house and sometimes it creaked and cried all
night under the weight of lonesomeness. Then she'd lie awake in
bed asking lonesomeness some questions. She asked if she
wanted to leave and go back where she had come from and try to
find her mother. Maybe tend her grandmother's grave. Sort of
look over the old stamping ground generally. Digging around
inside of herself like that she found that she had no interest in
that seldom-seen mother at ail. She hated her grandmother and
had hidden it from herself all these years under a cloak of pity, She
had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in
search of people; it was important to all the world that she should
find them and they find her. But she had been whipped like a cur
dog, and run off down a back road after things. It was all accord-
ing to the way you see things. Some people could look at a mud-
puddle and see an ocean with ships. But Nanny belonged to that
other land that loved to deal in scraps. Here Nanny had taken the
biggest thing God ever made, the horizon — for no matter how
far a person can go die horizon is still way beyond you — and
pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it
about her granddaughter's neck tight enough to choke her. She
hated the old woman who had twisted her so in the name of love.
90 tf& Zora Nealc Hurston
Most humans didn't love one another nohow, and this mislove
was so strong that even common blood couldn't overcome it ail
the time. She had found a jewel down inside herself and she had
wanted to walk where people could see her and gleam it around.
But she had been set in the market-place to sell. Been set for still-
bait When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff
that sung all the time and glittered all over. r Fhen after that some
angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but
still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing
but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they
covered each one over with mud. And the lonesome ness in the
sparks make them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and
dumb. Like all the other tumbling mud-balis, Janie had tried to
show her shine.
Janie found out very soon that her widowhood and property
was a great challenge in South Florida. Before Jody had been
dead a month, she noticed how often men who had never been
intimates of Joe, drove considerable distances to ask after her
welfare and offer their services as advisor
"Uh woman by herself is uh pitiful thing," she was told over
and again. u Dey needs aid and assistance. God never meant 'cm
tuh try tuh stand by thcirselves. You ain't been used tuh knockin'
round and doin' full yo\self, Mis' Starks. You been well taken
kecr of, you needs uh man."
Janie laughed at ail these well-wishers because she knew that
they knew plenty of women alone; that she was not the first one
they had ever seen. But most of the others were poor. Besides she
liked being lonesome for a change. This freedom feeling was fine.
These men didn't represent a thing she wanted to know about.
She had already experienced them through Logan and Joe. She felt
like slapping some of them for sitting around gri nning at her like a
pack of chesssy cats, trying to make out they looked like love.
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4? 91
Ike Green sat on her case seriously one evening on the store
porch when he was lucky 7 enough to catch her alone.
"You wants be keerfiJ 'bout who you marry, Mis' Starks.
Dese strange men runnin' hcah tryin' tuh take advantage of yo'
"Marry!" Janie almost screamed. u Joe ain't had time tuh git
cold yet. Ah ain't even give marryin^ de first thought."
"But you will. You'se too young uh 'oman tuh stay single,
and you'se too pretty for de mens tuh leave yuh alone. You'se
bound tuh marry."
"Ah hope not. Ah mean, at dis present time it don't come
befo' me. Joe ain't been dead two months. Ain't got settled
down in his grave."
"Dat's whut you say now, but two months mo' and you'll
sing another tune. Den you want tuh be keerful. Womenfolks is
easy taken advantage of. You know what tuh let none uh dese
stray niggers dat's settin' round heah git de inside track on yuh.
They's jes lak uh pack uh hawgs, when dey sec uh full trough.
Whut yuh needs is uh man dat yuh done lived uhround and know
all about tuh sort of manage yo* things fah yuh and gineralfy do
Janie jumped upon her feet. "Lawd, Ike Green, you'se uh
case! Dis subjick you bringin' up ain't fit tuh be talked about at
all. Lemme go inside and help Hezekiah weigh up dat barrel uh
sugar dat just come in." She rushed on inside die store and whis-
pered to Hezekiah, "Ah'm gone tuh de house, krarae know
when dat ole pee-de-bed is gone and Ah'll be right back."
Six months of wearing black passed and not one suitor had
ever gained the house porch. Janie talked and laughed in the store
at times, but never seemed to want to go further. She was happy
except for the store. She knew by her head that she was absolute
owner, but it always seemed to her that she was still clerking for
92 4Sjp Zora Neaie Hurston
Joe and that soon he would come lei and find something wrong
that she had done. She almost apologized to the tenants the first
time she collected the rents. Felt like a usurper. But she hid that
feeling by sending Hezekiah who was the best imitation of Joe that
his seventeen years could make. He had even taken to smoking,
and smoking cigars, since Joe's death and tried to bite 'em tight in
one side of his mouth like Joe. Every chance he got he was reared
back in Joe's swivel chair trying to thrust out his Jean belly into a
paunch. She'd laugh quietly at his no-harm posing and pretend she
didn't see it. One day as she came in the back door of the store she
heard him bawling at Tripp Crawford, "Naw indeed, we can't do
nothin' uh de kind! I god, you ain't paid for dem last rations you
done et up. I god, you won't git no mo' outa dis store than you
got money tuh pay for. I god, dis ain't Gimme, Florida, dis is
Eatonville." Another time she overheard him using Joe's favorite
expression for pointing out the differences between himself and
the careless-living, mouthy town. "Ah'm an educated man, Ah
keep mah arrangements in mah hands." She laughed outright at
that. His acting didn't hurt nobody and she wouldn't know what
to do without him. He sensed that and came" to treat her like baby-
sister, as if to say "You poor litde thing, give it to big brother. He'll
fix it for you." His sense of ownership made him honest too,
except for an occasional jaw-breaker, or a packet of sen-sen. The
sen-sen was to let on to the other boys and the pullet -size girls that
he had a liquor breath to cover. This business of managing s stores
and women store-owners was trying on a man's nerves. He needed
a drink of liquor now and then to keep up.
When Janie emerged into her mourning white, she had hosts
of admirers in and out of town. Everything open and frank. Men
of property too among the crowd, but nobody seemed to get any
further than the store. She was always too busy to take them to
the house to entertain. They were all so respectful and stiff' with
Their Eyes Were Watching God 93
her, that she might have been the Empress of Japan. They felt
that it was not fitting to mention desire to the widow of Joseph
Starts. You spoke of honor and respect. And all that they said and
did was refracted by her inattention and shot off towards the rim-
bones of nothing. She and Pheoby Watson visited back and forth
and once in awhile sat around the lakes and fished. She was just
basking in freedom for the most part without the need for
thought. A Sanford undertaker was pressing his cause through
Pheoby, and Janie was listening pleasantly but undisturbed. It
might be nice to marry him^ at that. No hurry. Such things take
time to think about, or rather she pretended to Pheoby that that
was what she was doing.
"Tain't dat Ah worries over Joe's death, Pheoby. Ah jus'
loves dis freedom."
"Sh~sh-sh! Don't let nobody hear you say dat, Janie. Folks
will say you ain't sorry he's gone. "
"Let 'em say whut dey wants tuh, Pheoby. To my thinkin'
mourning oughtn't tuh last no longer' n grief."
One day Hezekiah asked off from work to go off with the ball team.
Janic told him not to hurry back. She could close up the store
herself this once. He cautioned her about the catches on the win-
dows and doors and swaggered off to Winter Park.
Business was dull ail day > because numbers of people had
gone to the game. She decided to close early, because it was
hardly worth the trouble of keeping open on an afternoon like
this. She had set six o'clock as her limit.
At five-thirty a tall man came into the place. Janie was lean-
ing on the counter making aimless pencil marks on a piece of
wrapping paper, She knew she didn't blow his name, but he
"Good evening Mis' Starks," he said with a sly grin as if they
had a good joke together. She was in favor of the story that was
making him laugh before she even heard it.
"Good evening * she answered pleasandy. "You got all dc
advantage 'cause Ah don't knowyo' name."
"People wouldn't know me lak dey would you"
"Ah guess standin' in uh store do make nh person git tuh be
known in de vicinity. Look lak Ah seen you somewhere."
"Oh, Ah don't live no further than Orlandah. Ah'm easy
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4S» 95
tuh see on Church Street most any day or night. You got any
ssmokin' tobacco? "
She opened the glass case. "What kind?"
She handed over the cigarettes and took the money He
broke the pack and thrust one between his full, purple lips.
"You got a 111 piece uh fire over dere, lady?"
They both laughed and she handed him two kitchen matches
out of a box for that purpose. It was time for him to go but he
didn't. He leaned on the counter with one elbow and cold-
cocked her a look.
''Why ain't you at de ball game, too? Everybody else is dere."
"Well, Ah see somebody else besides me ain't dere. Ah just
sold some cigarettes." They laughed again.
"Dat's 'cause Ah'm dumb. Ah got de thing all mixed up. Ah
thought de game was gointuh be out at Hungerford. So Ah got uh
ride tuh where dis road turns off from de Dixie Highway and
walked over here and then Ah find out de game is in Winter Park."
That was funny to both of them too.
"So what you gointuh do now? All de cars in Eatonvillc is
"How about playin' you some checkers? You looks hard tuh
"Ah is, 'cause Ah can't play uh lick."
"You don't cherish de game, then?"
"Yes, Ah do, and then agin Ah don't know whether Ah do or
not, 'cause nobody ain't never showed me how."
"Dis is de last day for dat excuse. You got uh board round
"Yes indeed. De men folks treasures de game round heah. Ah
just ain't never learnt how."
He set it up and began to show her and she found herself
96 4Sr Zora Ncak Humon
glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play Somebody thought
it natural for her to play That was even nice. She looked him over
and got little thrills from every one of his good points. Those fall,
lazy eyes with the lashes curling sharply away like drawn scimitars.
The lean^ over-padded shoulders and narrow waist. Even nice!
He was jumping her king! She screamed in protest against
losing the king she had had such a hard time acquiring. Before
she knew it she had grabbed his hand to stop him. He struggled
gallandy to free himself. That is he struggled, but not hard
enough to wrench a lady's fingers.
"Ah got uh right tuh take it. You left it right in mah way"
"Yeah, but Ah wuz iookin' off when you went and stuck yo'
men right up next tuh mine. No fair!"
"You ain't supposed tuh look off, Mis' Starks. It's de biggest
part uh de game tuh watch out! Leave go mah hand."
"No suh! Not mah king. You kin take another one, but not
They scrambled and upset the board and laughed at that.
"Anyhow it's time for uh Coca-Cola," he said. "Ah '11 come
teach yuh some mo' another time."
"It' s all right tuh come teach me, but don't come tuh
"Yuh can't beat uh woman. Dey jes won't stand fiih it. But
Ah'li come teach yuh agin. You gointuh be uh good player too,
"You reckon so? Jody useter tell me Ah never would learn. It
wuz too heavy fuh mah brains."
"Folks is playin' it wid sense and folks is playin' it without.
But you got good meat on yo' head. You'll learn. Have uh cool
drink on me."
"Oh all right, thank yuh. Got plenty cold ones tuhday.
Nobody ain't been heah tuh buy none. All gone off tuh de game."
Their Eyes Were Watching God 97
"You oughta be at de next game. Tain't no use in you stayin'
heah if everybody else is gone. You don't buy from yo'self, do yuh?"
"You crazy thing! 'Course Ah don't. But Ah'm worried
'bout you uh little."
"How come? 'Fraid Ah ain't gointuh pay foh dese drinks? n
"Aw naw! How you gointuh git back home?"
"Wait round heah fuh a car. If none don't come, Ah got
good shoe leather. 'Tain't but seben miles no how. Ah could walk
dat in no time. Easy."
"If it wuz me, Ah'd wait on uh train. Seben miles is uh kinda
"It wouid be for you, 'cause you ain't used to it. But Ah'm seen
women walk further' n dat. You could too, if yuh had it tuh do."
"Maybe so, but Ah'll ride de train long as Ah got railroad
"Ah don't need no pocket-full uh money to ride de train iak
uh woman. When Ah takes uh notion Ah rides anyhow— money
or no money."
"Now ain't you something Mr. cr — er— You never did tell
me whut yo' name wuz."
"Ah sho didn't. Wuzn't expectin' fuh it to be needed. De
name mah mama gimme is Vergibie Woods. Dey calls me Tea
Cake for short."
"Tea Cake! So you sweet as all dat?" She laughed and he gave
her a litdc cut-eye look to get her meaning.
"Ah may be guilty. You better try me and see."
She did something halfway between a laugh and a frown and
he set his hat on straight.
"B'lieve Ah done cut uh hawg, so Ah guess Ah better ketch
air." He made an elaborate act of tipping to the door stealthily.
Then looked back at her with an irresistible grin on his face.
Janie burst out laughing in spite of herself. "You crazy thing!"
98 4Sr Zora NeaJe Hursron
He turned and threw his hat at her fcet. "If she don^t throw
it at me, Ah'li take a chance on comin' back," he announced,
making gestures to indicate he was hidden behind a pOsSt. She
picked up the hat and threw it after him with a laugh. "Even if she
had uh brick she couldn't hurt yuh wid it," he said to an invisible
companion. u De lady can't throw" He gestured to his compan-
ion, stepped out from behind the imaginary lamp post, set his
coat and hat and strolled back to where Janie was as if he had just
come in the store.
"Evening Mis' Starks. Could yuh lemme have uh pound uh
knuckle puddin 7 * till Saturday? Ah'm sho tuh pay yuh then."
"You needs ten pounds, Mr. Tea Cake. Ah 'II let yuh have all
Ah got and you needn^t bother 'bout payin' it back."
They joked and went on till the people began to come in.
Then he took a seat and made talk and laughter with the rest until
closing time. When everyone else had left he said, "Ah reckon Ah
done over-layed mah leavin' time, but Ah figgured you needed
somebody tuh help yuh shut up de place. Since nobody else ain't
round heah, maybe Ah kin git de job."
"Thankyuh, Mr, Tea Cake. It is kinda strainin' fuh me."
"Who ever heard of uh teacake bein' called Mister! If you
wanta be real hightoned and call me Mr. Woods, dat's de way you
feel about it. If yuh wants tuh be uh lii friendly and call me lea
Cake, dat would be real nice." He wan closing and bolting win-
dows all the time he talked.
"All right, then. Thank yuh, Ilea Cake. How's dat?"
"Jes lak uh lil girl wid her Easter dress on. Even nice!" He
locked the door and shook it to be sure and handed her the key.
"Come on now, Ah '11 see yuh inside yo' door and git on down
*A beating with the list.
Their Eyes Were Watching God 3jp 99
Janic was halfway down the palm-lined walk before she had a
thought for her safety. Maybe this strange man was up to some-
thing! But it was no place to show her fear there in the darkness
between the house and die store. He had hold of her arm too.
Then in a moment it was gone. Tea Cake wasn't strange. Seemed
as if she had known him all her life. Look how she had been able
to talk with him right off! He tipped his hat at the door and was off
with the briefest good night.
So she sat on the porch and watched the moon rise. Soon its
amber fluid was drenching the earth, and quenching the thirst of
Janie wanted to ask Hezekiah about Tea Cake, but she was afraid
he might misunderstand her and think she was interested. In the
first place he looked too young for hen Must be around twenty-
five and here she was around forty. Then again he didn't look like
he had too much. Maybe he was hanging around to get in with
her and strip her of all that she had. Just as well if she never saw
him again. He was probably the kind of man who lived with var-
ious women but never married. Fact is, she decided to treat him
so cold if he ever did foot the place that hcM be sure not to come
hanging around there again*
He waited a week exactly to come back for Janie's snub. It
was early in the afternoon and she and Hezekiah were alone. She
heard somebody humming like they were feeling for pitch and
looked towards the door. Tea Cake stood there mimicking the
tuning of a guitar. He frowned and struggled with die pegs of his
imaginary instrument watching her out of the corner of his eye
with that secret joke playing over his face. Finally she smiled and
he sung middle C, put his guitar under his arm and walked on
back to where she was.
"Evening folks. Thought y'all might lak uh lil musk this
evenin* so Ah brought long mah box."
Their Eyes Were Watching God 101
"Crazy thing! * Janie commented, beaming out with light.
He acknowledged the compliment with a smile and sat down
on a box. "Anybody have uh Coca-Cola wid me?"
"Ah just had one," Janie temporized with her conscience.
"It'll hafter be done all over agin, Mis 1 Starks."
"'Cause it wasn't done right dat time, 'Kiah bring us two
botties from de bottom nil de box."
"How you been makin' out since Ah seen yuh last, Tea
"Can't kick. Could be worse. Made four days dis week and
got de pay in mah pocket."
"We got a rich man round here, then. Buyin' passenger trains
uh batdeships this weekr"
"Which one do you want? It all depends on you."
"Oh, ifyou'se treatin' me tuh it, Ah brieve Ah'll take de pas-
senger train. If it b!ow up Ah II still be on land."
"Choose de battleship if dat's whut you really want. Ah know
where one is right now. Seen one round Key West de other day."
"How you gointuh git it?"
"Ah shucks, dem Admirals is always ole folks. Can't no ole
man stop me from gittin' no ship for yuh if dat's whut you want.
Ah'd git dat ship out from under him so slick till he'd be walkin'
de water lak ole Peter befo' he knowed it."
They played away the evening again. Everybody was surprised
at Janie playing checkers but they liked it. Three or four stood
behind her and coached her moves and generally made merry with
her in a restrained way. Finally everybody went home but Tea Cake*
"You kin close up, 'Kiah," Janie said. "Think Ah'U g'wan
Tea Cake fell in beside her and mounted the porch this time.
So she offered him a seat and they made a lot of laughter out of
102 & Zora Neale Hurston
nothing. Near eleven o'clock she remembered a piece of pound
cake she had put away. Tea Cake went out to the lemon tree at
the corner of the kitchen and picked some lemons and squeezed
them for her So they had lemonade too.
"Moon's too pretty fth anybody tub be sleepin' it away," Tea
Cake said after they had washed up the plates and glasses. "Less
"Fishin'> Dis time uh night?"
"Urihhunh, fishin\ Ah know where de bream is beddin\
Seen 'em when Ah come round de lake dis evenin'. Where's yo'
fishin' poles? Less go set on de lake."
It was so crazy digging worms by iamp light and setting out
for Lake Sabelia after midnight that she felt like a child breaking
rules. That's what made Janie like it. They caught two or three
and got home just before day Then she had to smuggle Tea Cake
out by the back gate and that made it seem like some great secret
she was keeping from the town.
"Mis' Janie," Hez^kiah began sullenly next day, "you oughtn't
'low dat Tea Cake tab be waikin' tuh de house wid yuhu Ah'U go
wid yuh mahsclf after dis, if you'se skeered- w
"What's de matter wid Tea Cake, 'Kiah? Is he uh thief uh
"Ah ain't never heard nobody say he stole notbinV
"Is he bad 'bout totin' pistols and knives tuh hurt people
"Dey don't say he ever cut nobody or shot nobody neither."
"Well, is he — he — is he got uh wife or something lak dat?
Not dat it's any uh mah business." She held her breath for the
"No'm. And nobody wouldn't marry Tea Cake tuh starve
tuh death lessen it's somebody jes lak him — ain't used to nothin'.
'Course he always keep hisself in changin' clothes. Dat long-
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4p 103
iegged Tea Cake ain't got doodly squat. He ain't got no business
makin' hisscf familiar wid nobody lak you. Ah said Ah wuz goin*
to tell yuh so yuh could know."
"Oh dat's ail right, Hezekiah. Thank yuh mighty much."
The next night when she mounted her steps Tea Cake was
there before her, sitting on the porch in the dark. He had a string
of fresh-caught trout for a present.
"Ah'll clean 'em, you fry 'em and let's eat," he said with the
assurance of not being refused. They went out into the kitchen
and fixed up the hot fish and corn muffins and ate. Then Tea
Cake went to the piano without so much as asking and began
playing blues and singing, and throwing grins over his shoulder.
The sounds lulled Janie to soft slumber and she woke up with Tea
Cake combing her hair and scratching the dandruff from her
scalp. It made her more comfortable and drowsy.
"Tea Cake, where you git uh comb from ttih be combin' mah
"Ah brought it wid me. Come prepared tuh lay mah hands
on it tuhnight."
"Why, Tea Cake? Whut good do combin' mah hair do you?
It's mah comfortable , not yourn."
"It's mine too. Ah ain't been sieepin' so good for more'n uh
week cause Ah been wishin' so bad tuh git mah hands in yo' hair.
It's so pretty. It feels jus' iak underneath uh dove's wing next to
u Umph! You'se mighty easy satisfied. Ah been had dis same
hair next tuh mah face ever since Ah cried de first time, and ''t^in't
never gimme me no thrill."
"Ah tell you lak you told me — you'se mighty hard tuh satisfy.
Ah betcha dem lips don't satisfy yuh neither."
"Dat's right, Tea Cake. They's dere and Ah make use of 'em
whenever it's necessary, but nothin' special tuh me."
104 JSP Zora Ncak Hurston
"Umph! umph! umph! Ah betcha you don't never go tuh de
lookin ? glass and enjoy yo' eyes yo'self You lets other folks git all
de enjoyment out of 'cm 'thouttakin' in any of it yo'seif- w
"Naw, Ah never gazes at 'em in de lookin 1 glass- If anybody
else gits any pleasure out of 'em Ah ain't been told about it-"
"See dat? You'se got de world in uh jug and make out you
don't know it. But Ah'm glad tuh be de one tuh tell yuh-"
"Ah guess you done told plenty women all about it."
"Ah'm de Apostle Paul tuh de Gentiles- Ah tells 'em and then
agin Ah shows 'em."
"Ah thought so." She yawned and made to get up from the
sofa, "You done got me so sleepy wid yo 1 head-scratchin 1 Ah kin
hardly make it tuh de bed-" She stood up at once, collecting her
hair. He sat still-
"NaWj you ain't sieepy, Mis' Janie- You jus 1 want me tuh go-
You figger Ah'm uh rounder and uh pimp and you done wasted
too much time talkm 1 wid me-"
"Why, Tea Cake! Whut ever put dat notion in yo 1 head?"
"De way you looked at me when Ah said whut Ah did- Yo 1
face skeered me so bad till mah whiskers drawed up-"
"Ah ain't got no business bein 1 mad at nothin 1 you do and
say- You got it all wrong- Ah ain't mad ataU- "
"Ah know it and dat's what puts de shamery on me- You'se
jus' disgusted wid me- Yo 1 face jus' left here and went off
somewhere else- Naw, you ain't mad wid me- Ah be glad if you
was, 'cause then Ah might do something tuh please yuh- But
lak it is—"
"Mah likes and dislikes ought not tuh make no difference
wid you 7 Tea Cake. Dat's fuh yo' lady friend- Ah'm jus 1 uh some-
time friend uh yourn-"
Janie walked towards the stairway slowly, and Tea Cake sat
where he was, as if he had frozen to his seat, in fear that once he
Their Eyes Were Watching God ^ 105
got op, he'd never get back in it again. He swallowed hard and
looked at her walk away,
"Ah didn't aim tuh let on tuh yuh 'boot it, leastways not
right away, but Ah ruther be shot wid tacks than rub you tuh act
wid me lak you is right now. You got me in de go-long,**
At the newel post Janie whirled around and for the space of a
thought she was lit up like a transfiguration. Her next thought
brought her crashing down. He's just saying anything for the
time being, feeling he*s got me so I'll b'lievc him. The next
thought buried her under tons of cold futility. He's trading on
being younger than me. Getting ready to laugh at me for an old
fool. But oh, what wouldn't I give to be twelve years younger so
I could b'lievc him!
*Aw, Tea Cake, you just say dat tuhnight because de fish and
com bread tasted sort of good. Tomorrow yo' mind would
change, 7 *
"Naw, it wouldn't neither. Ah know better."
"Anyhow from what you toid me when we wuz back dere in
de kitchen Ah*rn nearly twelve years older than you,"
"Ah done thought all about dat and tried tuh struggle aginst
it, but it don't do me no good, De thought uh mah youngness
don*t satisfy me lak yo* presence do,"
"It makes uh whole heap uh difference wid most folks. Tea
"Things lak dat got uh whole lot tuh do wid convenience,
but it ain't got nothin* tuh do wid love,"
"Weil, Ah love tuh find out whut you think after sun-up
tomorrow, Dis is jus' yo' night thought,"
"You got yo* ideas and Ah got mine. Ah got uh dollar dat
says you'se wrong. But Ah reckon you don't bet money, nei-
"Ah never have done it so far. But as de old folks always say,
106 f&P Zora Neale Hurston
Ah'm born but Ah ain't dead. No tellin' whut Ah'm liable tuh do
He got up suddenly and took his hat. "Good night, Mis'
Janie. Look lak we done run our conversation from grass roots
tuh pine trees. G'bye." He almost ran out of the door.
Janie hung over the newel post thinking so long that she all
but went to sleep there. However^ before she went to bed she
took a good look at her mouth, eyes and hair.
All next day in the house and store she thought resisting
thoughts about Tea Cake. She even ridiculed him in her mind
and was a little ashamed of the association. But every hour or
two the battle had to be fought all over again. She couldn't
make him look just like any other man to her. He looked like the
love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom — a
pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent
out of the world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs
with every step he took. Spices hung about him. He was a
glance from God.
So he didn*t come that night and she laid in bed and pre-
tended to think scornfiilly of him. "Bet he's hangin' round some
jook or 'nother. Glad Ah treated him cold. Whut do Ah want wid
some trashy nigger out de streets? Bet he's livm' wid some
woman or 'nother and takin' me for uh fool. Glad Ah caught
mahself in time." She tried to console herself that way.
The next morning she awoke hearing a knocking on the
front door and found Tea Cake there.
"Hello, Mis' Janie, Ah hope Ah woke you up."
"You sho did, Tea Cake. Come in and rest yo' hat. Whut you
doin' out so soon dis morning"
"Thought AhM try tuh git heah soon enough tuh tell yuh
mah daytime thoughts. Ah see yuh needs tuh know mah daytime
feelings. Ah can't sense yuh intuh it at night."
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4^ 107
"You crazy thing! Is dat whut you come here for at day-
"Sho is. You needs tellin' and showin', and dat's whut Ah'm
doin'. Ah picked some strawberries too, Ah figgered you might like "
"Tea Cake, Ah Vlare Ah don't know whut tuh make outa
you. You'sc so crazy You better iemme fix you some breakfast.*"
"Ain't got time. Ah got uh job uh work. Gottuh be back in
Orlandah at eight o'clock. Sec yuh later, tell you straighten"
He bolted down the walk and was gone. But that night when
she left the store, he was stretched out in the hammock on the
porch with his hat over his face pretending to sleep. She called
him. He pretended not to hear. He snored louder. She went to
the hammock to shake him and he seized and pulled her in with
him. After a little, she let him adjust her in his arms and laid there
for a while.
"Tea Cake, Ah don't know 'bout you, but Ah'm hongry,
come on let's eat some supper."
They went inside and dieir laughter rang out first from the
kitchen and all over the house.
Janie awoke next morning by feeling Tea Cake almost kissing
her breath away. Holding her and caressing her as if he feared she
might escape his grasp and fly away. Then he must dress hurriedly
and get to his job on rime. He wouldn't let her get him any
breakfast at all. He wanted her to get her rest. He made her stay
where she was. In her heart she wanted to get his breakfast for
him. But she stayed in bed long after he was gone.
So much had been breathed out by the pores that Tea Cake
still was there. She could feel him and almost sec him bucking
around the room in the upper air. After a long time of passive
happiness, she got up and opened the window and let Tea Cake
leap forth and mount to the sky on a wind. That was the begin-
ning of things.
108 iSr Zora Ncale Hurston
In the cool of the afternoon the fiend from hell specially sent
to lovers arrived at Janie's ear. Doubt. All the fears that circum-
stance could provide and the heart feel, attacked her on every
side. This was a new sensation for her, but no less excruciating. If
only Tea Cake would make her certain! He did not return that
night nor the next and so she plunged into the abyss and
descended to the ninth darkness where light has never been.
But the fourth day after he came in the afternoon driving a
battered car. Jumped out like a deer and made the gesture of
tying it to a post on the store porch. Ready with his grin! She
adored him and hated him at the same time. How could he make
her suffer so and then come grinning like that with that darling
way he had? He pinched her arm as he walked inside the door,
"Brought me somethin' tub haul you off in/* he told her
with that secret chuckle. "Git yo' hat if you gointuh wear one.
We got tub go buy groceries. n
"Ah sells groceries right here in dis store, Tea Cake, if you
don't happen tuh know." She tried to look coid but she was smil-
ing in spite of herself.
"Not de kind we want fuh de occasion. You sells groceries for
ordinary people. We'se gointuh buy for you. De big Sunday
School picnic is tomorrow — bet you done forget it — and we got
tuh be derc wid uh swell basket and ourselves. *
"Ah don't know 'bout dat, Tea Cake. Tell yuh whut you do.
G'wan down tuh de house and wait for me. Be dcre in uh
As soon as she thought it looked right she slipped out of the
back and joined Tea Cake. No need of fooling herself. Maybe he
was just being polite.
"Tea Cake, you sure you want me tuh go tuh dis picnic wid
"Me scramble 'round tuh git de money tuh take yuh — been
Their Eyes Were Watching God 109
workin ? lak uh dawg for two whole weeks—and she come astin'
me if Ah want her tuh go! Puttin' mahscif tuh uh whole heap uh
trouble tuh git dis car so you kin go over tuh Winter Park or
Orlandah tuh buy de things you might need and dis woman set
dere and ast me if Ah want her tuh go! "
"Don't git mad 5 Tea Cake, Ah just didn't want you doin'
nothin* ouia politeness, If dere's somebody else youM ruther take,
it's ail right wid me."
"Naw, it ain't all right wid you, If it was you wouldn't be sayin'
dat, Have de nerve tuh say whut you mean,"
"Well, all right, Tea Cake, Ah wants tuh go wid you real bad,
but,— oh, Tea Cake, don't make no false pretense wid meP'
"Janie, Ah hope God may kilS me, if Ah'm lyin\ Nobody else
on earth kin hold uh candle tuh you, baby You got de keys to de
It was after the picnic that the town began to notice things and got
mad. Tea Cake and Mrs. Mayor Starks! All the men that she could
get, and fooling with somebody like Tea Cake! Another thing, Joe
Starks hadn't been dead but nine months and here she goes sashay-
ing off to a picnic in pink linen. Done quit attending church* like
she used to. Gone off to Sanford in a car with Tea Cake and her all
dressed in blue! It was a shame. Done took to high heel slippers and
a ten dollar hat! looking like some young girl, always in blue
because Tea Cake told her to wear it, Poor Joe Starks. Bet he turns
over in his grave every day, Tea Cake and Janie gone hunting. Tea
Cake and Janie gone fishing. Tea Cake and Janie gone to Oriando
to the movies. Tea Cake and Janie gone to a dance. Tea Cake mak-
ing flower beds in Janic's yard and seeding the garden for her.
Chopping down that tree she never did like by the dining room
window. All those signs of possession. Tea Cake in a borrowed car
teaching Janie to drive. Tea Cake and Janie playing checkers; play-
ing coon -can; playing Florida flip on the store porch all afternoon as
if nobody else was tfiere. Day after day and week after week.
"Pheoby," Sam Watson said one night as he got in the bed, *Ah
blieve yo 1 buddy is all tied up with dat Tea Cake shonough. Didn't
brieve it at first."
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r III
"Aw she don't mean nothin' by it Ah think she's sort of
stuck on dat undertaker up at Sanfcrd."
"It's somebody 'cause she looks might good dese days* New
dresses and her hair combed a different way nearly every day. You
got to have something to comb hair over. When you see uh
woman doin' so much rakin' in her head, she's combin* at some
man or 'nother."
"'Course she kin do as she please, but dat's uh good chance
she got up at Sanford. De man's wife died and he got uh lovely
place tuh take her to— already famished. Better'n her house Joe
"You better sense her intuh things then 'cause Tea Cake can't
do nothin' but help her spend whut she got. Ah reckon dat's
whut he's after. TTirowin' away whut Joe Starts worked hard tuh
"Dat's de way it looks, Still and all, she's her own woman.
She oughta know by now whut she wants tuh do."
"De men wuz talkin' 'bout it in de grove tuhday and givin'
her and Tea Cake both de devil. Dcy figgcr he's spendin' on her
now in order tuh make her spend on him later."
"Umph! Umph! Umph!"
"Oh dey got it all Jiggered out. Maybe it ain't as bad as they
say, but they talk it and make it sound real bad on her part."
"Dat's jealousy and malice. Some uh dem very mens wants
tuh do whut dey claim deys skeered Tea Cake is doinV
"De Pastor claim Tea Cake don't 'low her tuh come tuh
church only once in awhile 'cause he want dat change tuh buy gas
wid. Just draggin' de woman away from church. But anyhow,
she's yo' bosom friend, so you better go see 'bout her. Drop uh
lil hint here and dere and if Tea Cake is tryin' tuh rob her she kin
see and know. Ah laks de woman and Ah sho would hate tuh see
her come up lak Mis' Tyler."
112 Zora Neale Hurston
u Aw rnah God, naw! Reckon Ah better step over dere tomor-
row and have some chat wid Janie. She jus' ain't thinkin' whut she
doin\ dat's all."
The next morning Pheoby picked her way over to Janie's
house like a hen to a neighbor's garden. Stopped and talked a lit-
tie with everyone she met > turned aside momentarily to pause at
a porch or two — going straight by walking crooked. So her firm
intention looked like an accident and she didn't have to give her
opinion to folks along the way.
Janie acted glad to see her and after a while Pheoby broached
her with, "Janie, everybody's talkin' 'bout how dat Tea Cake is
draggin' you round tuh places you ain't used tuh. Baseball games
and huntin' and fishin\ He don't know you'se useter uh more
high time crowd than dat. You always did class off"
"Jody classed mc off Ah didn't. Naw, Pheoby, Tea Cake ain't
draggin' me off nowhere Ah don't want tuh go. Ah always did
want tuh git round uh whole heap, but Jody wouldn't 'low me
tuh. When Ah wasn't in de store he wanted me tuh jes sit wid
folded hands and sit dere. And Ah'd sit dere wid de walls creepin'
up on me and squeezin' ail de life outa me. Pheoby, dese edu-
cated women got uh heap of things to sit down and consider.
Somebody done toie 'em what to set down for Nobody ain't
told poor me, so sittin' still worries me. Ah wants tuh utilize
mahself all over,"
"But, Janie, Tea Cake, whilst he ain't no jaii-bird> he ain't got
uh dime tuh cry. Ain't you skeered he's jes after yo' money — him
bein' younger than you?"
"He ain't never ast de first penny from me yet, and if he love
property he ain't no different from all de rest of us. All dese ole
men dat's settin' round me is after de same thing. They's three
mo' widdcr women in town, how come dey don't break dey neck
after dem? 'Cause dey ain't got nothin', dat's why."
Their Byes Were Watching God 4r 113
"Folks seen you out in colors and dey thinks you ain't payin'
dc right amount uh respect tuh yo' dead husband."
"Ah ain't grievin' so why do All hafta mourn? Tea Cake love
me in blue, so Ah wean? it. Jody ain't never in his life picked out
no color for me. Dc world picked out black and white for
mourning Joe didn't. So Ah wasn't wearin' it for him. Ah was
wearin' it for de rest of y'all."
"But anyhow, watch yo'self, Janie, and don't be took advan-
tage of. You know how dese young men is wid older women.
Most of de time dey's after whut dey kin git, then dey's gone lak
uh turkey through de corn."
"Tea Cake don't talk dat way. He's aimin' tuh make hisself
permanent wid me. We done made up our mind tuh marry."
"Janie, you'se yo' own woman, and Ah hope you know whut
you doin'. Ah sho hope you ain't lak uh possum — de older you
gits, de less sense yuh got. Ah'd feel uh whole heap better 'bout
yuh if you wuz marryin' dat man up dere in Sanford. He got some-
thin' tuh put long side uh whut you got and dat make it more bet-
ter. He's endurable."
"Still and all Ah'd ruther be wid Tea Cake."
"Well, if yo' mind is already made up, 'tain't nothin' nobody
kin do. But you'se takin' uh awful chance."
"No mo' than Ah took befo' and no mo' than anybody else
takes when dey gits married. It always changes folks, and some-
times it brings out dirt and meanness dat even de person didn't
know they had in 'cm theyselves. You know dat. Maybe Tea Cake
might turn out lak dat. Maybe not. Anyhow Ah'm ready and
willin' tuh try 'im."
"Well, when you aim tuh step off?"
"Dat we don't know. De store is got tuh be sold and then
we'se goin' off somewhere tuh git married."
"How come you sellin' out de store?"
114 *jp Zora Ncaie Hurstoii
"'Cause Tea Cake ain't no Jody Starks, and if he tried tuh be, it
would be till complete flommuck. But de minute Ah marries 'im
everybody is gointuh be makin' comparisons. So us is goin' off
somewhere and start all over in Tea Cake's way Dis ain't no business
proposition, and no race after property and titles. Dis is uh love
game. Ah done lived Grandma's way, now Ah means tuh live mine."
"What you mean by dat, Janie?"
"She was borned in slavery time when folks, dat is black folks,
didn't sit down anytime dey felt lak it. So simn' on porches lak de
white madam looked lak uh mighty fine thing tuh her. Dat's
whut she wanted for me — don't keer whut it cost. Git up on uh
high chair and sit dere. She didn't have time tuh think whut tuh
do after you got up on de stool uh do nothin\ De object wuz tuh
git dere. So Ah got up on dc high stool lak she told me, but
Pheoby, Ah done nearly languished tuh death up dere. Ah felt
like de world wuz cryin' extry and Ah ain't read de common
"Maybe so, Janie. Still and ail Ah'd love tuh experience it for
just one year. It look lak heben tuh me from where Ah'm at."
"Ah reckon so."
"But anyhow, Janie, you be keerfal 'bout dis scllin' out and
goin' offwid strange men. Look whut happened tuh Ahnie Tyler.
Took whut little she had and went off tuh Tampa wid dat boy dey
call Who Flung. It's somethin' tuh think about"
"It sho is. Still Ah ain't Mis' Tyler and Tea Cake ain't no
Who Flung, and he ain't no stranger tuh me. We'sc just as good
as married already. But Ah ain't puttin' it in de street. Ah'm
tellin' you. "
"Ah jus lak uh chicken. Chicken drink water, but he don't
"Oh, Ah know you don't talk. We ain't shame faced. We jus'
ain't ready tuh make no big kerflommuck as yet."
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4B» 115
"You doin' righfrnot tuh talk it, but Janie, you'se takin' uh
mighty big chance."
a, Tain*t so big uh chance as it seem iak, Phcoby. Ah'm older
than Tea Cake, yes. But he done showed me where it's de
thought dat makes de difference in ages. If people thinks de same
they can make it ail right, So in the beginning new thoughts had
tuh be thought and new words said. After Ah got used tuh dat,
we gits 'long jus' fine. He done taught me de maiden language
all over. Wait till you see de new blue satin Tea Cake done picked
out for me tuh stand up wid him in. High heel slippers, necklace,
earrings, everything he wants tuh see me in. Some of dese
mornin's and it won't be long, you gointuh wake up callin' me
and Ah'll be gone,"
Jacksonville. Tea Cake*s letter had said Jacksonville. He had
worked in the railroad shops up there before and his old boss had
promised him a job come next pay day. No need for Janie to wait
any longer. Wear the new blue dress because he meant to marry
her right from the train. Hurry up and come because he was
about to turn into pure sugar thinking about her. Come on,
baby, papa Tea Cake never could be mad with you!
Janic's train left too early in the day for the town to witness
much, but the few who saw her leave bore plenty witness. They
had to give it to her, she sho looked good, but she had no busi-
ness to do it. It was hard to love a woman that always made you
feel so wishful
The train beat on itself and danced on the shiny steel rails
mile after mile. Every now and then the engineer would play on
his whistle for the people in the towns he passed by. And the train
shuffled on to Jacksonville, and to a whole lot of things she
wanted to see and to know.
And there was Tea Cake in the big old station in a new blue
suit and straw hat, hauling her off to a preacher's house first
thing. Then right on to the room he had been sleeping in for two
weeks all by himself waiting for her to come. And such another
Their Byes Were Watching God ^B* 117
hugging and kissing and carrying on you never saw, It made her
so glad she was scared of herself They stayed at home and rested
that night, but the next night they went to a show and after that
they rode around on the trolley cars and sort of looked things
over for themselves- Tea Cake was spending and doing out of his
own pocket, so Janie never told him about the two hundred dot™
lars she had pinned inside her shirt next to her skin, Pheoby had
insisted that she bring it along and keep it secret just to be on the
safe side. She had ten dollars over her fare in her pocket book- Let
Tea Cake think that was all she had- Things might not turn out
like she thought- Every minute since she had stepped off the train
she had been laughing at Phcoby's advice- She meant to tell Tea
Cake the joke some time when she was sure she wouldn't hurt his
feelings- So it came around that she had been married a week and
sent Pheoby a card with a picture on it-
That morning Tea Cake got up earlier than Janie did- She felt
sleepy and told him to go get some fish to fry for breakfast- By the
time he had gone and come back she would have finished her nap
out- He told her he would and she turned over and went back to
sleep- She woke up and Tea Cake still wasn*t there and the clock
said it was getting late, so she got up and washed her face and
hands- Perhaps he was down in the kitchen fixing around to let her
sleep- Janie went down and the landlady made her drink some cof-
fee with her because she said her husband was dead and it was bad
to be having your morning coffee by yourself
"Yo* husband gone tuh work dts morning Mis* Woods? Ah
seen him go out uh good while uh go- Me and you kin be com -
pany for one 'nother, can't us?"
H Oh yes, indeed, Mis' Samuels- You puts me in de mind uh
mah friend back in Eatonvillc- Yeah, youV nice and friendly jus*
1 Tierefcre Janie drank her coffee and sankled on back to her
11S ^Br Zora Ncak Humon
room without asking her landlady anything. Tea Cake must be
hunting all over the city for that fish. She kept that thought in
front of her in order not to think too much. When she heard the
twelve o'clock whistle she decided to get up and dress. That was
when she found out her two hundred dollars was gone. There was
the little cloth purse with the safety pin on the chair beneath her
clothes and the money just wasn't nowhere in the room. She knew
from the beginning that the money wasn't any place she knew of if
it wasn't in that little pocket book pinned to her pink silk vest. But
the exercise of searching the room kept her busy and that was
good for her to keep moving, even though she wasn't doing any™
thing but turning around in her tracks.
But, don't care how firm your determination is, you can't keep
turning round in one place like a horse grinding sugar cane. So
Janie took to sitting over the room. Sit and look. The room inside
looked like the mouth of an alligator — gaped wide open to swal-
low something down. Outside the window Jacksonville looked like
it needed a fence around it to keep it from running out on ether's
bosom. It was too big to be warm, let alone to need somebody like
hen All day and night she worried time like a bone.
Way late in the morning the thought of Annie Tyler and Who
Flung came to pay her a visit. Annie Tyler who at fifty-two had
been left a widow with a good home and insurance money.
Mrs, Tyler with her dyed hair, newly straightened and her
uncomfortable new false teeth* her leathery skin, blotchy with
powder and her giggle. Her love affairs, affiurs with boys in their
late teens or early twenties for all of whom she spent her money
on suits of clothes* shoes, watches and things like that and how
they all left her as soon as their wants were satisfied. Then when
her ready cash was gone, had come Who Flung to denounce his
predecessor as a scoundrel and took up around the house him-
self. It was he who persuaded her to sell her house and come to
Their Eyes Were Watching God <3r 119
Tampa with him. The town had seen her limp off The under-
sized high-heel slippers were punishing her tired feet that looked
like bunions all over. Her body squeezed and crowded into a
tight corset that shoved her middle up under her chin. But she
had gone off laughing and sure. As sure as Janie had been.
Then two weeks later the porter and conductor of the north
bound local had helped her off the train at Maitland. Hair ail gray
and black and bluish and reddish in streaks. All the capers that
cheap dye could cut was showing in her hair. Those slippers bent
and griped just like her work-worn feet. The corset gone and the
shaking old woman hanging all over herself. Everything that you
could sec was hanging. Her chin hung from her ears and rippled
down her neck like drapes. Her hanging bosom and stomach and
buttocks and legs that draped down over her ankles. She groaned
but never giggled.
She was broken and her pride was gone, so she told those
who asked what had happened. Who Flung had taken her to a
shabby room in a shabby house in a shabby street and promised
to marry her next day They stayed in the room two whole days
then she woke up to find Who Flung and her money gone. She
got up to stir around and sec if she could find him, and found
herself too worn out to do much. All she found out was that she
was too old a vesSse! for new wine. The next day hunger had dri-
ven her out to shift. She had stood on the streets and smiled and
smiled, and then smiled and begged and then )ust begged. After
a week of world- bruising a young man from home had come
along and sSeen her. She couldn't tell him how it was. She just told
him she got off the train and somebody had stolen her purse.
Naturally, he had believed her and taken her home with him to
give her time to rest up a day or two, then he had bought her a
ticket for home.
They put her to bed and sent (or her married daughter from
120 ^Sr Zora Ncalc Hurston
up around Ocala to come sec about her. The daughter came as
soon as she could and took Annie Tyler away to die in peace. She
had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it
The thing made itself into pictures and hung around Janie's
bedside all night long. Anyhow, she wasn't going back to
Eatonville to be laughed at and pitied. She had ten dollars in her
pocket and twelve hundred in the bank. But oh God, don't let
Tea Cake be off somewhere hurt and Ah not know nothing
about it. And God, please suh, don't let him love nobody else but
me. Maybe Ah'm is uh fool, Lawd, lak dey say, but Lawd, Ah
been so lonesome, and Ah been waitin', Jesus. Ah done waited
uh long time.
Janie dozed off to sleep but she woke up in time to see the
sun sending up spies ahead of him to mark out the road through
the dark. He peeped up over the door sill of the world and made
a little foolishness with red. But pretty soon, he laid all that aside
and went about his business dressed all in white. But it was always
going to be dark to Janie if Tea Cake didn ? t soon come back. She
got out of the bed but a chair couldn't hold her. She dwindled
down on the floor with her head in a rocking chair.
After a while there was somebody playing a guitar outside her
door Played right smart while. It sounded lovely too. But it was
sad to hear it feeling blue like Janie was. Then whoever it was
started to singing "Ring de bells of mercy. Call de sinner man
home." Her heart all but smothered her.
"Tea Cake, is dat you?"
"You know so well it's me, Janie. How come you don^t open
But he never waited. He walked on in with a guitar and a
grin. Guitar hanging round his neck with a red silk cord and a
grin hanging from his ears.
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r 121
"Don't need tuh ast mc where Ah been all dis time, 'cause
it's mah all day job tuh tell yuh."
"Tea Cake, Ah— *
"Good Lawd, Janie, whut you doin' scttin' on de floor? "
He took her head in his hands and eased himself into the
chair. She still didn't say anything. He sat stroking her head and
looking down into her face.
"Ah see whut it is, You doubted me 'bout de money Thought
Ah had done took it and gone. Ah don't blame yuh but it wasn't
lak you think. De girl baby ain't born and her mama is dead, dat
can git me tuh spend our money on her. Ah told yo' before dat you
got de keys tuh de kingdom. You can depend on dat."
"Still and all you went off and left me all day and all night."
"Twasn't 'cause Ah wanted tuh stay off lak dat, and it sho
Lawd, wuzn't no woman. If you didn't have de power tuh hold
me and hold me tight, Ah wouldn't be callin' yuh Mis' Woods.
Ah met plenty women before Ah knowed you tuh talk tuh.
You'se de oniicst woman in de world Ah ever even mentioned
gitting married tuh. You bein' older don't make no difference.
Don't never consider dat no mo'. If Ah ever gits tuh messin'
round another woman it won't be on account of her age. It'll be
because she got me in de same way you got me — so Ah can't help
He sat down on the floor beside her and kissed and playfully
turned up the corner of her mouth until she smiled.
"Looka here, folks," he announced to an imaginary audi-
ence, "Sister Woods is 'bout tuh quit her husband!"
Janie laughed at that and let herself lean on him. Then she
announced to the same audience, "Mis' Woods got herself uh new
lil boy rooster, but he been off somewhere and won't tell her."
"First thing, though, us got tuh eat together, Janie. Then we
122 4&r Zora Ncalc Hurston
"One thing, Ah won't send you out after no fish/'
He pinched her in the side and ignored what she said.
"Tain't no need of neither one of us workin' dis mornin 1 .
Call Mis' Samuels and let her fix whatever you want."
"Tea Cake, if you don't hurry up and tell me, Ah'll take and
beat yo' head flat as uh dime. 11
Tea Cake stuck out till he had some breakfast, then he talked
and acted out the story.
He spied the money while he was tying his tie. He took it up
and looked at it out of curiosity and put it in his pocket to count
it while he was out to find some fish to fry. When he found out
how much it was, he was excited and felt like letting folks know
who he was. Before he found the fish market he met a fellow he
used to work with at the round house. One word brought on
another one and pretty soon he made up his mind to spend some
of it. He never had had his hand on so much money before in his
life, so he made up his mind to see how it felt to be a millionaire.
They went on out to Callahan round the railroad shops and he
decided to give a big chicken and macaroni supper that night,
free to all.
He bought up the stuff and they found somebody to pick the
guitar so they could all dance some. So they sent the message all
around for people to come. And come they did. A big table
loaded down with fried chicken and biscuits and a wash-tub fall
of macaroni with plenty cheese in it. When the fellow began to
pick the box the people begin to come from east, west, north and
Australia. And he stood in the door and paid ail the ugly women
two dollars not to come in. One big meriny colored woman was
so ugly till it was worth five dollars for her not to come in, so he
gave it to her.
They had a big time till one man come in who thought he
was bad. He tried to pull and haul over all the chickens and pick
Their Eyes Were Watching God 123
out the livers and gizzards to cat. Nobody eise couldn't pacify
him so they called Tea Cake to come see if he could stop him. So
Tea Cake walked up and asked him, "Say, whut's de matter wid
"Ah don't want nobody handin' me nothin\ Specially don't
issue me out no rations. Ah always chooses mah rations. 59 He
kept right on plowing through the pile uh chicken. So Tea Cake
"You got mo 1 nerve than uh brass monkey. Tell me, what
post office did you ever pee \x\> Ah craves tuh know. "
"Whut you mean by dat now?" the fellow asked.
"Ah means dis — it takes )us' as much nerve tuh cut caper lak
dat in uh United States Government Post Office as it do tuh
comes pullin* and haulin' over any chicken Ah pay for Hit de
ground. Damned if Ah ain't gointuh try you dis night."
So they all went outside to see if Tea Cake could handle the
boogerboo. Tea Cake knocked out two of his teeth, so that man
went on off from there, Then two men tried to pick a fight with
one anodier, so Tea Cake said they had to kiss and make up. They
didn't want to do it. They'd rather go to jail, but everybody else
liked the idea, so they made 'em do it. Afterwards, both of them
spit and gagged and wiped their mouths with the back of their
hands, One went outside and chewed a little grass like a sick dog,
he said to keep it from killing him.
Then everybody began to holier at the music because the
man couldn't play but three pieces. So Tea Cake took the guitar
and played himself. He was glad of the chance because he hadn't
had his hand on a box since he put his in the pawn shop to get
some money to hire a car for Janie soon after he met her. He
missed his music. So that put him in the notion he ought to have
one. He bought the guitar on the spot and paid fifteen dollars
cash. It was really worth sixty-five any day.
124 4r Zora Neak Hurston
Just before day the party wore out. So Tea Cake hurried on
back to his new wife. He had done found out how rich people feel
and he had a fine guitar and twelve dollars left in his pocket and all
he needed now was a great big old hug and kiss from Janic.
"You musta thought yo* wife was powerful ugly. Dem ugly
women dat you paid two dollars not to come in, could git tuh de
door. You never even Mowed me tuh git dat close." She pouted.
"Janie, Ah would have give Jacksonville wid Tampa for a
jump- back for you to be dere wid me. Ah started to come git yuh
two three times. "
"Well, how come yuh didn't come git me?"
"Janie, would you have come if Ah did?"
"Sho Ah would. Ah late fun just as good as you do."
"Janie, Ah wanted tuh, mighty much, but Ah was skeered.
Too skeered Ah might lose yuh."
"Dem wuzn't no high muckty mucks. Dem wuz railroad
hands and dcy womenfolks. You ain't usetuh folks lak dat and All
wuz skeered you might git all mad and quit me for takin' you
'mongsi 'em. But Ah wanted yuh wid me jus'' de same. Befo* us
got married Ah made up mah mind not tuh let you see no com~
monness in me. When Ah git mad habits on, Ah'd go off and
keep it out yo' sight. 'Tain't mah notion tuh drag you down wid
"Looka heah, Tea Cake, if you ever go off from me and have
a good time lak dat and then come back heah tellhV me how nice
Ah is, Ah specks tuh kill yuh dead. You heah mc?"
"So you aims tuh partake wid everything, hunh?"
"Yeah, Tea Cake, don't keer what it is."
"Dat*s all Ah wants tuh know. From now on you'se mah wife
and mah woman and everything else in de world Ah needs."
"Ah hope so."
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4* 125
"And honey, don't you worry >bout yo' lil ole two hundred
dollars. It's big pay day dis comin' Saturday at de railroad yards,
Ah'm gointuh take dis twelve dollars in mah pocket and win it all
back and mo'.*
"Honey, since you loose me and gimme privilege tuh tell yuh
all about mahself> Ah'U tell yuh. You done married one uh de best
gamblers God ever made. Cards or dice either one. Ah can take
uh shoe string and win uh tan-yard. Wish yuh could see me
rollin'. But dis time it's gointuh be nothin' but tough men's
talkin* all kinds uh talk so it ain't no place for you tuh be, but
'twcm't be long befo 1 you see me."
All the rest of the week Tea Cake was busy practising up on
his dice. He would flip them on the bare floor, on the rug and on
the bed. He'd squat and throw, sit in a chair and throw and stand
and throw. It was very exciting to Janie who had never touched
dice in her life. Then he'd take his deck of cards and shuffle and
cut, shuffle and cut and deal out then examine each hand care-
hilly, and do it again. So Saturday came. He went out and bought
a new switch- blade knife and two decks of star back playing cards
that morning and left Janie around noon.
"They'll start to paying off, pretty soon now. Ah wants tuh
git in de game whilst de big money is in it. Ah ain't fuh no spud-
din' tuhday. Ah'U come home wid de money or Ah'll come back
on nh stretcher." He cut nine hairs out of the mole of her head
for luck and went off happy
Janie waited till midnight without worrying, but after that she
began to be afraid. So she got up and sat around scared and miser-
able. Thinking and fearing ail sorts of dangers. Wondering at her-
self as she had many times this week that she was not shocked at
Tea Cake's gambling. It was part of him, so it was all right. She
rather found herself angry at imaginary people who might try to
126 *Sm Zora Neale Hurston
criticize. Let the old hypocrites learn to mind their own business,
and leave other folks alone. Tea Cake wasn't doing a bit more
harm trying to win hisself a little money than they was always
doing with their lying tongues. Tea Cake had more good nature
under his toe-nails than they had in their so-called Christian hearts.
She better not hear none of them old backbiters talking about her
husband! Please, Jesus, don't let them nasty niggers hurt her boy.
If they do, Master Jesus, grant her a good gun and a chance to
shoot 'em. Tea Cake had a knife it was true, but that was only to
protect hisself. God knows, Tea Cake wouldn't harm a fly.
Daylight was creeping around the cracks of the world when
Janie heard a feeble rap on the door. She sprung to the door and
flung it wide. Tea Cake was out there looking like he was asleep
standing up. In some strange way it was frightening. Janie caught
his arm to arouse him and he stumbled into the room and fell.
"Tea Cake! You chile! What's de matter, honey?"
"Dey cut me, dat's all. Don't cry Git me out dis coat quick
He told her he wasn't cut but twice but she had to have him
naked so she could look him all over and fix him up to a certain
extent. He told her not to call a doctor unless he got much
worse. It was mostly loss of blood anyhow.
"Ah won the money jus' lak ah told yxth . Round midnight Ah
had yo' two hundred dollars and wuz ready tuh quit even though
it wuz uh heap mo' money in de game. But dey wanted uh
chance tuh win it back so Ah set back down tuh play some mo'.
Ah knowed ole Double-Ugly wuz 'bout broke and wanted tuh
fight 'bout it, so Ah set down tuh give 'im his chance tuh git back
his money and then to give 'im uh quick trip tuh hell if he tried
tuh pull dat razor Ah glimpsed in his pocket. Honey, no up-to-
date man don't fool wid no razor. De man wid his switch-blade
will be done cut yuh tuh death while you foolin' wid uh razor.
Their Byes Were Watching God 127
But Double-Ugly brags he's too fast wid it tub git hurt, but Ah
"So round four o'clock Ah had done cleaned 'em out com-
plete — all except two men dat got up and left while dey had
money for groceries, and one man dat wuz lucky Then Ah rose
tuh bid 'cm good bye agin. None of 'em didn't lak it, but dey all
realized it wuz fair Ah had done give 'em a fair chance. All but
Double-Ugly He claimed Ah switched de dice. Ah shoved de
money down deep in mah pocket and picked up mah hat and
coat wid mah left hand and kept mah right hand on mah knife.
Ah didn't keer what he said long as he didn*t try tuh do nothinV
Ah got mah hat on and one arm in mah coat as Ah got to de door.
Right dere he jumped at me as Ah turned to see de doorstep out-
side and cut me twice in de back.
"Baby, Ah run mah other arm in mah coat-sleeve and
grabbed dat nigger by his necktie befo' he could bat his eye and
then Ah wuz all over 'im jus' lak gravy over rice. He lost his razor
tryin' tuh git loose from me. He wuz hollerin' for me tuh turn
him loose, but baby, Ah turnt him every way hut loose, Ah left
him on the doorstep and got here to yuh de quickest way Ah
could. Ah know Ah ain't cut too deep Vause he was too skcered
tuh run up on me close enough. Sorta pull de flesh together with
stickin' plaster. Ah 'II be all right in uh day or so."
Janie was painting on iodine and crying.
"You ain't de one to be cryin 1 , Janie. It*s his ole lady oughta
do dat. You done gimme luck. Look in mail left hand pants
pocket and see whut yo' daddy brought yuh. When Ah tell yuh
Ah*m gointuh bring it, Ah don't lie. w
They counted it together— three hundred and twenty-two
dollars. It was almost like Tea Cake had held up the Paymaster. He
made her take the two hundred and put it back in the secret place.
Then Janie told him about the other money she had in the bank.
128 <Qp Zora NeaJe Humon
"Put dat two hundred back wid de rest, Jank, Mah dice. Ah
no need no assistance tuh help me feed mah woman. From now
on, you gointuh eat whuievcr mah money can buy yuh and wear
de same. When Ah ain't got nothin* you don ? t git nothinV'
*Dafs all right wid me"
He was getting drowsy, but he pinched her leg playfully
because he was glad she took things the way he wanted her to,
"Listen, mama, soon as Ah git over dis HI cuttin ? scrape, we goin-
tuh do somethin* crazy.**
"We goin* on de muck,"
u Whut*s de muck, and where is it at?"
"Oh down in de Everglades round Glewiston and Belle
Glade where dey raise all dat cane and string-beans and
tomatuhs. Folks don ? t do nothin* down dere but make money
and fun and foolishness. We must go dere."
He drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt
a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place.
lb Janie y s strange eye$> everything in the Everglades was big and
new Big Lake Okechobce, big beans, big cane, big weeds, big
everything. Weeds that did well to grow waist high up the state
were eight and often ten feet tall down there. Ground so rich that
everything went wild. Volunteer cane just taking the place. Dirt
roads so rich and black that a half mile of it would have fertilized
a Kansas wheat field. Wild cane on either side of the road hiding
the rest of the world. People wild too,
"Season don't open up till last of September, but we had tuh git
heah ahead uh time tuh git us uh room,* Tea Cake explained. "Two
weeks from now, it'll be so many folks heah dcy won't be lookin'
fuh rooms, dey'll be jus' looking fiih somewhere tuh sleep. Now we
got uh chance tuh git uh room at de hotel, where dey got uh bath
tub. Yuh can't live on de muck 'thout yuh take uh bath every day.
Do dat muck'll itch yuh lak ants. 'Tain't but one place round heah
wid uh bath tub. Tain't nowhere near enough rooms. "
"Whut we gointuh do round heah? 1 *
"All day Ah'm pickin' beans. Ail night Ah'm pickin' mah
box and rollin' dice. Between de beans and de dice Ah can't
lose. Ah'm gone right now tuh pick me uh job uh work wid de
best man on de muck. Before de rest of 'em gits heah. You can
130 Zora Neaic Hurston
always git jobs round heah in de season, hut not wid de right
u When do de job open up, Tea Cake? Everybody round here
look lak dey waitin' too."
"Dat's right, De big men haves uh certain time tuh open de
season jus' lak in everything else. Mah boss-man didn't get suffi-
cient seed. He's out huntin' up uh few mo' bushels. Den we'se
"Yeah, bushels. Dis ain't no game fuh pennies. Po' man ain't
got no business at de show."
The very next day he burst into the room in high excitement.
"Boss done bought out another man and want me down on de
lake. He got houses fuh de first ones dat git dere. Less go!"
They rattled nine miles in a borrowed car to the quarters that
squatted so close that only the dyke separated them from great,
sprawling Okechobee. Janie fussed around the shack making a
home while Tea Cake planted beans. After hours they fished.
Every now and then they'd run across a party of Indians in their
long, narrow dug-outs calmly winning their living in the trackless
ways of the 'Glades. Finally the beans were in. Nothing much to
do but wait to pick them. Tea Cake picked his box a great deal for
Janie, but he still didn't have enough to do. No need of gambling
yet. The people who were pouring in were broke. They didn't
come bringing money, they were coming to make some,
"Tell yuh whut, Janie, less buy us some shootin' tools and go
huntin ' round heah."
*Dat would be fine, Tea Cake, exceptin' you know Ah can't
shoot. But Ah'd love tuh go wid you."
"Oh, you needs tuh learn how 'Tain't no need uh you not
knowin' how tuh handle shootin' tools. Even if you didn't never
find no game, it's always some trashy rascal dat needs uh good
Their Byes Were Watching God 131
killin\" he laughed. "Less go intuh Palm Reach and spend some
of our money,"
Every day they were practising. Tea Cake made her shoot at
little things just to give her good aim. Pistol and shot gun and
rifle. It got so the others stood around and watched them. Some
of the men would beg for a shot at the target themselves. It was
the most exciting thing on the muck. Better than the jook and
the pool-room unless some special band was playing for a dance.
And the thing that got everybody was the way Janic caught on.
She got to the place she could shoot a hawk out of a pine tree and
not tear him up. Shoot his head off. She got to be a better shot
than Tea Cake. TheyM go out any late afternoon and come back
loaded down with game. One night they got a boat and went out
hunting alligators. Shining their phosphorescent eyes and shoot-
ing them in the dark. They could sell the hides and teeth in Palm
Beach besides having fun together till work got pressing.
Day by day now, the hordes of workers poured in. Some
came limping in with their shoes and sore feet from walking. It's
hard trying to follow your shoe instead of your shoe following
you. They came in wagons from way up in Georgia and they
came in truck loads from east, west, north and south. Permanent
transients with no attachments and tired looking men with their
families and dogs in flivvers. All night, all day, hurrying in to pick
beans. Skillets, beds, patched up spare inner tubes all hanging
and dangling from the ancient cars on the outside and hopeful
humanity, herded and hovered on the inside, chugging on to the
muck. People ugly from ignorance and broken from being poor.
All night now the jooks clanged and cSamored. Pianos living
three lifetimes in one. Blues made and used right on the spot.
Dancing, fighting, singing, crying, laughing, winning and losing
love every hour. Work all day for money, fight all night for love. The
rich black earth clinging to bodies and biting the skin like ants.
132 4* Zora Neak Hurscon
Finally no more sleeping places. Men made big fires and fifty
or sixty men slept around each fire. But they had to pay the man
whose land they slept on. He ran the fire just like his boarding
place — for pay. But nobody cared. They made good money,
even to the children. So they spent good money. Next month
and next year were other times. No need to mix them up with
Tea Cake's house was a magnet, the unauthorized center of
the "job.'" The way he would sit in the doorway and play his gui-
tar made people stop and listen and maybe disappoint the jook
for that night. He was always laughing and £1x11 of ftm too. He
kept everybody laughing in the bean field.
Janie stayed home and boiled big pots of biackcyed peas and
rice. Sometimes baked big pans of navy beans with plenty of
sugar and hunks of bacon laying on top. That was something Tea
Cake loved so no matter if Janie had fixed beans two or three
times during the week, they had baked beans again on Sunday.
She always had some kind of dessert too, as Tea Cake said it give
a man something to taper off on. Sometimes she'd straighten out
the two-room house and take the rifle and have fried rabbit for
supper when Tea Cake got home. She didn't leave him itching
and scratching in his work clothes, either. The kettle of hot water
was already waiting when he got in.
Then Tea Cake took to popping in at the kitchen door at odd
hours. Between breakfast and dinner, sometimes. Then often
around two o'clock he'd come home and tease and wresde with
her for a half hour and slip on back to work. So one day she asked
him about it.
"Tea Cake, whut you doin' back in de quarters when every-
body else is still working"
"Come tuh see 'bout you. De boogerman liable tuh tote yuh
off whilst Ah'm gone."
Their Eyes Were Watching God *fr 133
"Tain't no boogcrman got me tuh study 'bout. Maybe you
think Ali ain't treatin' yuh right and you watchin' me."
"Naw 7 naw, Janie. Ah know better'n dat. But since you got
dat in yo* head, Ah '11 have tuh tell yuh de real truth, so yuh can
know. Janie, Ah gits lonesome out dere all day 'thout yuh. After
dis, you betta come git uh job uh work out dere lak de rest uh de
women — so Ah won't be losin' time comin' home."
"Tea Cake, you'se uh mess! Can't do *thout me dat ill rime."
"Tain't no iil time. It's near 'bout all day."
So the very next morning Janie got ready to pick beans along
with Tea Cake. There was a suppressed murmur when she picked
up a basket and went to work. She was already getting to be a
special case on the muck. It was generally assumed that she
thought herseif too good to work like the rest of the women and
that Tea Cake "pomped her up tuh dat." But ail day long the
romping and playing they carried on behind the boss's back
made her popular right away. It got die whole field to playing off
and on. Then Tea Cake would help get supper afterwards.
"You don't think Ah'm tryin' tuh git outa takin' keer uh yuh,
do yuh, Janie, 'cause Ah ast yuh tuh work long side uh me>" Tea
Cake asked her at the end of her first week in the field.
"Ah naw, honey. Ah laks it. It's mo' nicer than settin' round dese
quarters all day. Clerkin' in dat store wuz hard, but heah, we ain't got
nothin' tuh do but do our work and come home and love."
The house was full of people every night. That is, all around
the doorstep was full. Some were there to hear Tea Cake pick the
box; some came to talk and tell stories, but most of them came to
get into whatever game was going on or might go on. Sometimes
Tea Cake lost heavily, for there were several good gamblers on
the lake. Sometimes he won and made Janie proud of his skill.
But outside of die two jooks, everything on that job went on
around those two.
134 J&r Zora Neai.e Hurston
Sometimes Janic would think of the old days in the big white
house and the store and laugh to herself What if Eatonvillc could
see her now in her blue denim overalls and heavy shoes? The
crowd of people around her and a dice game on her floor! She was
sorry for her friends back there and scornful of the others. The
men held big arguments here like they used to do on the store
porch. Only here, she could listen and laugh and even talk some
herself if she wanted to. She got so she could tell big stories herself
from listening to the rest. Because she loved to hear it, and the
men loved to hear themselves, they would "woof" and "booger-
boo" around the games to the limit. No matter how rough it was,
people seldom got mad, because everything was done for a laugh.
Everybody loved to hear Ed Dockery, Bootyny, and Sop-de-Bot-
torn in a skin game. Ed Dockery was dealing one night and he
looked over at Sop-de-Bottom's card and he could tell Sop
thought he was going to win. He hollered, "Ah'll break up set-
tin' uh eggs." Sop looked and said, "Root de peg. " Bootyny asked,
"What are you goin' nib da> Do do!" Everybody was watching
that next card fall. Ed got ready to turn. "Ah'm gointuh sweep out
hell and burn up de broom." He slammed down another dollar.
"Don't oversport yourself, Ed," Bootyny challenged. "You gittin*
too yaller. " Ed caught hold of the corner of the card. Sop dropped
a dollar. "Ah'm gointuh shoot in de hearse, don't keer how sad de
funeral be. * Ed said, "You see how this man is teasin 5 hell?" Tea
Cake nudged Sop not to bet. "You gointuh git caught in uh bul let
storm if you don't watch out." Sop said, "Aw 'tain 5 1 nothin' tuh
dat bear but his curly hair. Ah can look through muddy water and
see dryland." Ed turned off the card and hollered, "Zachariah, Ah
says come down out dat sycamore tree. You can't do no business."
Nobody fell on that card. Everybody was scared of the next one.
Ed looked around and saw Gabe standing behind his chair and
hollaed, "Move, from over me, Gabe! You too black. You draw
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4ft* 13S
heat! Sop, you wanta pick up dat bet whilst you got uh chance?"
"Naw ? man, Ah wish Ah had uh thousand4eg tuh put on it** "So
yuh won't lisscn, huh? Dumb niggers and free schools. Alr m gohv
tuh take and teach yuh> Ah'li main -line but Ah won't side-track."
Ed flipped the next card and Sop fell and lost- Everybody hollered
and laughed. Ed laughed and said, "Git off de muck! You ain't
nothin'. Dat's all! 'Hot boilin' water won't help yuh none.* Ed
kept on laughing because he had been so scared before. "Sop,
Bootyny, all y'all dat leirune win yo* money: Ah J m sending it
straight off to Sears and Roebuck and buy me sonic clothes, and
when Aii turn out Christinas day, it would take a doctor to tell me
how near Ah is dressed tuh deaths
Janie learned what it felt like to be jealous. A UttU chunky girl took
to picking a play out of Tea Cake in the fields and in the quarters.
If he said anything at ali> sheM take the opposite side and hit him
or shove him and run away to make him chase her Janie knew
what she was up to— luring him away from the crowd. It kept up
for two or three weeks with Nunkie getting bolder all the time.
SheM hit Tea Cake playfully and the minute he so much as tapped
her with his finger she'd fall against him or fell on the ground and
have to be picked up. SheM be almost helpless. It took a good deal
of handling to set her on her feet again. And another thing, Tea
Cake didn^t seem to be able to fend her off as promptly as Janie
thought he ought to. She began to be snappish a little. A little seed
of fear was growing into a tree. Maybe some day Tea Cake would
weaken. Maybe he had already given secret encouragement and
this was Nunkie's way of bragging about it. Other people began to
notice too, and that put Janie more on a wonder.
One day they were working near where the beans ended and
the sugar cane began. Janie had marched off a little from Tea Cake's
side with another woman for a chat. When she glanced around Tea
Cake was gone. Nunkie too. She knew because she looked.
"Where's Tea Cake?" she asked Sop-de -Bottom.
Their Eyes Were Watching God <4BP 137
He waved his hand towards the cane field and hurried away,
Janie never thought at all. She just acted on feelings. She rushed
into the cane and about the fifth row down she found Tea Cake
and Nunkie struggling. She was on them before either knew,
"Whut's de matter heah?" Janie asked in a cold rage. They
"Nothing Tea Cake told her, standing shame-faced,
"Well, whut you doin' in heah? How come you ain't out dere
wid de rest?"
"She grabbed mah workin' tickets outa mah shirt pocket and
Ah run tub git 'em back," Tea Cake explained, showing the tick-
ets, considerably mauled about in the struggle,
Janie made a move to seize Nunkie but the girl fled. So she
took out beiiind her over the humped-up cane rows, But Nunkie
did not mean to be caught. So Janie went on home. The sight of
the fields and the other happy people was too much for her that
day. She walked slowly and thoughtfully to the quarters. It wasn't
long before Tea Cake found her there and tried to talk. She cut
him short with a blow and they fought from one room to the
other, Janie trying to beat him, and Tea Cake kept holding her
wrists and wherever he could to keep her from going too far,
"Ah blievc you been messin 1 round her!" she panted fiiriously,
"No sich uh thing! n Tea Cake retorted,
"Don't keer how big uh lie get told, somebody kin b'licve it!"
They fought on, "You done hurt mah heart, now you come
wid uh lie tuh bruise mah ears! Turn go mah hands! 7 * Janie
seethed. But lea Cake never let go. They wresded on until they
were doped with their own fumes and emanations; till their
clothes had been torn away; till he hurled her to the floor and
held her there melting her resistance with the heat of his body,
doing things with their bodies to express the inexpressible; kissed
138 Zora Ncalc Hurston
her until she arched her body to meet htm and they fell asieep in
The next morning Janic asked like a woman, "You still love
u Naw, never did, and you know it too. Ah didn't want her."
"Yeah, you did." She didn't say this because she believed it.
She wanted to hear his denial. She had to crow over the fallen
"Whut would Ah do wid dat lil chunk of a woman wid you
around? She ain't good for nothm' exceptin* tub set up in uh cor-
ner by de kitchen stove and break wood over her head. You'se
something tuh make uh man forgtt tuh git old and forgit tuh die *
The season closed and people went away like they bad come — in
droves. Tea Cake and Janie decided to stay since they wanted to
make another season on the muck. There was nothing to do,
after they had gathered several bushels of dried beans to save over
and sell to the planters in the fall. So Janie began to look around
and see people and things she hadn't noticed during the season.
For .instance during the summer when she heard the subtle
but compelling rhythms of the Bahaman drummers, she'd walk
over and watch the dances. She did not laugh the "Saws" to
scorn as she had heard the people doing in the season. She got to
like it a lot and she and Tea Cake were on hand every night till the
others teased them about it.
Janie came to know Mrs. Turner now. She had seen her sev-
eral times during the season > but neither ever spoke. Now they
got to be visiting friends.
Mrs. Turner was a milky sort of a woman that belonged to
child-bed. Her shoulders rounded a little, and she must have
been conscious of her pelvis because she kept it stuck out in front
of her so she could always see it. Tea Cake made a lot of fim about
Mrs. Turner's shape behind her back. He claimed that she had
been shaped up by a cow kicking her from behind. She was an
140 JBr Zora Ncale Hurst on
ironing board with things throwed at it. Then that same cow
took and stepped in her mouth when she was a baby and left it
wide and flat with her chin and nose almost meeting.
But Mrs. Turner's shape and features were entirely approved by
Mrs. Turner. Her nose was slightly pointed and she was proud. Her
thin lips were an ever delight to her eyes. Even her buttocks in bas-
relief were a source of pride. To her way of thinking all these things
set her aside from Negroes. That was why she sought out Janic to
ftiend with. Janie's coflfee-and-cream complexion and her luxurious
hair made Mrs. Turner forgive her for wearing overalls like the other
women who worked in the fields. She didn't forgive her for marry-
ing a man as dark as Tea Cake, but she felt that she could remedy
that. That was what her brother was bom for. She seldom stayed
long when she found Tea Cake at home, but when she happened to
drop in and catch Janie alone, she'd spend hours chatting away. Her
disfavorite subject was Negroes.
"Mis' Woods, Ah have often said to mah husband, Ah don't
see how uh lady like Mis' Woods can stand all them common nig-
gers round her place all de time."
"They don't worry me atall, Mis' Turner. Fact about de
thing is, they tickles me wid they talk. "
"You got mo 7 nerve than me. When somebody talked mah
husband intuh comin' down hcah tuh open up uh eatin' place Ah
never dreamt so many different kins uh black folks could colleck
in one place. Did Ah never wouida come. Ah ain't meter 'ssoci-
atin' wid black folks. Mah son claims dey draws lightnin'." They
laughed a little and after many of these talks Mrs. Turner said,
To' husband musta had plenty money when y'all got married."
"Whut make you think dat, Mis' Turner?"
"Tuh git hold of uh woman lak you. You got mo' nerve than
me. Ah jus' couldn't see mahself married to no black man. It's
too many black folks already. We oughta lighten up de race."
Their Eyes Were Waiching God <4p 141
"Naw, mail husband didn't had nothin' but hisself. He's easy
tuh love if you mess round 'im. Ah loves 'im."
"Why you, Mis' Woods! Ah don't b'lkve it. You'se jus' sorter
hypnotized, dat's all."
w Naw, it's real. Ah couldn't stand it if he witz tuh quit me.
Don't know whut Ah'd do. He kin take most any li! thing and
make summertime out of it when rimes is dull. Then wc lives offa
dat happiness he made till some mo' happiness come along."
"You'se different from me. Ah can't stand black niggers. Ah
don't blame de white folks from hatin' 'em 'cause Ah can't stand
'em mahself 'Nother thing, Ah hates tuh see folks lak me and
you mixed up wid 'em. Us oughta class off."
"Us can't do it. We'se uh mingled people and all of us got
black kinfolks as well as yaller kinfolks. How come you so against
"And dey makes me tired. Always langhin'! Dey laughs too
much and dey laughs too loud. Always singin' ol' nigger songs!
Always cnttin' de monkey for white folks. If it wuzn't for so many
black folks it wouldn't be no race problem . De white folks would
take us in wid dem. De black ones is holdin' us back."
"You reckon? bourse Ah ain't never thought about it too
much. But Ah don't figger dey even gointuh want us for comp'ny.
We'se too poor."
"'Tain't de poorness, it's de color and de features. Who want
any ill ole black baby layin' up in de baby buggy lookin' lak uh fly in
buttermilk? Who wants to be mixed up wid uh rusty black man, and
uh black woman goin' down de street in all dem loud colors, and
whoopin' and hollerin' and laughin' over notion'? Ah don't know.
Don't bring mc no nigger doctor tuh hang over mall sick-bed. Ah
done had six chillun — wuzn't lucky enough tuh raise but dat one—
and ain't never had uh nigger tuh even feel mah pulse. White doc-
tors always gits mah money. Ah don't go in no nigger store tuh buy
142 jOp Zora Ncale Hurston
notihin* neither Colored folks don't know nothin' *bout no busi-
ness. Deliver mc! 71
Mrs. Turner was almost screaming in fanatical earnestness by
now. Janie was dumb and bewildered before and she clucked sym-
pathetically and wished she knew what to say. It was so evident that
Mrs. Turner took black folk as a personal affront to herself.
"Look at me! Ah ain't got no flat nose and liver lips. Ah'm uh
featured woman. Ah got white folks' features in mah fece. Still
and all Ah got tuh be lumped in wid all de rest. It ain't iair. Even
if dey don't take us in wid de whites, dey oughta make us uh class
"It don't worry me atall, but Ah reckon Ah ain't got no real
"You oughta meet mah brorber. He's real smart. Got dead
straight hair. Dey made him uh delegate tuh de Sunday School
Convention and he read uh paper on Booker T. Washington and
tore him tuh pieces!"
"Booker T.? He wuz a great big man, wasn't he?"
"'Sposed tuh be. All he ever done was cut de monkey for
white folks. So dey pomped him up. But you know whut de o!e
folks say Me higher de monkey climbs de mo' he show his
behind* so dat's de way it wuz wid Booker T. Mah brother hit *im
every time dey give 'im chance tuh speak."
**Ah was raised on de notion dat he wuz uh great big man,"
was all that Janie knew to say.
"He didn't do nothin' but hold us back—talkin' 'bout work
when de race ain't never done nothin* else. He wuz uh enemy
tuh us, dat's whut. He wuz uh white folks' nigger."
According to all Janie had been taught this was sacrilege so
she sat without speaking at all. But Mrs. Turner went on.
"Ah done sent fuh mah brother tuh come down and spend
uh while wid us. He's sorter outa work now. Ah wants yuh tuh
Their Eyes Were Watching God 25* 143
meet him mo* special. You and him would make up uh swell cou-
ple if you wuzn't already married. He's uh fine carpenter, when
he kin git anything tuh do.*
"Yeah, maybe so. But Ah ^married now, so 'tain't no use in
Mrs. Turner finally rose to go after being very firm about sev-
eral other viewpoints of either herself, her son or her brother. She
begged Janie to drop in on her anytime, but never once men-
tioning Tea Cake. Finally she was gone and Janie hurried to her
kitchen to put on supper and found Tea Cake sitting in there with
his head between his hands.
"Tea Cake! Ah didn't know you wuz home."
"Ah know yuh didn't. Ah been heah uh long time listenin* to
dat heifer run me down tuh de dawgs uh try tuh tole you off
"So dat whut she wuz up to} Ah didn't know,"
"'Course she is. She got some no-count brother she wants
yuh tuh hook up wid and take keer of Ah reckon. "
"Shucks! If dat's her notion she's barkin' up de wrong tree.
Mali hands is fall already."
"Thanky Ma'am. Ah hates dat woman lak poison. Keep her
from round dis house. Her look lak uh white woman! Wid dat
meriny skin and hair jus' as close tuh her head as ninety-nine is
tuh uh hundred? Since she hate black folks so, she don't need our
money in her oP eatin' place. Ah '11 pass de word along. We kin go
tub dat white man's place and git good treatment. Her and dat
whittlcd-down husband uh hers! And dat son! He's jus' uh dirty
trick her womb played on her. Ah'm telling her husband tuh keep
her home. Ah don't want her round dis house "
One day Tea Cake met Turner and his son on the street. He
was a vanishing-looking kind of a man as if there used to be parts
about him that stuck out individually but now he hadn't a thing
144 Zora Nealc Hurston
about him that wasn't dwindled and blurred. Just like he had
been sand-papered down to a long oval mass. Tea Cake felt sorry
for him without knowing why. So he didn't blurt out the insults
he had intended. But he couldn't hold in everything. They talked
about the prospects for the coming season for a moment, then
Tea Cake said, *Yo' mfe don't seem tuh have nothin' much tuh
do, so she kin visit uli lot. Mine got too much tuh do tuh go vis-
itin' and too much tuh spend time talkin' tuh folks dat visit her."
"Mah wife takes time fah whatever she wants tuh do. Real
strong headed dat way. Yes indeed. 7 ' He laughed a high tungless
laugh. "De chiiiun don't keep her in no mo' so she visits when
she chooses. "
"De chiiiun?" Tea Cake asked him in surprise. "You got any
smaller than him>" He indicated the son who seemed around
twenty or so. "Ah ain't seen yo' others."
"Ah reckon you ain't 'cause dey ail passed on befo' dis one
wuz born. We ain't had no luck atall wid our chiiiun. We lucky to
raise him. He's de last stroke of exhausted nature."
He gave his powerless laugh again and Tea Cake and the boy
joined in with him. Then Tea Cake walked on off and went home
"Her husband can't do nothin' wid dat butt-headed woman.
All you can do is treat her cold whenever she come round here."
Janie tried that, but sShort of telling Mrs. Turner bluntly, there
was nothing she could do to discourage her completely. She felt
honored by Janie's acquaintance and she quickly forgave and for-
got snubs in order to keep it. Anyone who looked more white folk-
ish than herself was better than she was in her criteria, therefore it
was right that they should be cruel to her at times, just as she was
cruel to those more negroid than herself in direct ratio to their
negroness. Like the pecking-order in a chicken yard. Insensate cru-
elty to those you can whip, and groveling submission to those you
Their Eyes Were Watching God Jfr 145
can't. Once having set up her idols and built altars to them it was
inevitable that she would worship there. It was inevitable that she
should accept any inconsistency and cruelty from her deity as all
good worshippers do from theirs, All gods who receive homage
are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise
they would not be worshipped, Through indiscriminate suffering
men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones
for altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half gods are worshipped
in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.
Mrs. Turner, like ail other believers had built an altar to the
unattainable— Caucasian characteristics for all. Her god would
smite her, would hurl her from pinnacles and lose her in deserts,
but she would not forsake his altars. Behind her crude words was a
belief that somehow she and others through worship could attain
her paradise — a heaven of straighthaired, thin-lipped, high-nose
boned white seraphs. The physical impossibilities in no way injured
feith. That was the mystery and mysteries are the chores of gods.
Beyond her faith was a fanaticism to defend the altars of her god.
It was distressing to emerge from her inner temple and find these
black desccrators howling with laughter before the door. Oh, for
an army, terrible with banners and swords!
So she didn't cling to Janie Woods the woman. She paid
homage to Janie's Caucasian characteristics as such. And when
she was with Janie she had a feeling of transmutation, as if she
herself had become whiter and with straighter hair and she hated
Tea Cake first for his defilement of divinity and next for his telling
mockery of her. If she only knew something she could do about
it! But she didn't. Once she was complaining about the carry-
ings-on at the jook and Tea Cake snapped, "Aw, don't make God
look so foolish — findin* fault wid everything He made."
So Mrs. Turner frowned most of the time. She had so much
to disapprove of It didn't affect Tea Cake and Janie too much. It
146 Ify Zora Neaie Humon
just gave them something to talk about ill the summertime when
everything was dull on the muck. Otherwise they made little trips
to Palm Beach, Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale for their fun.
Before they realized it the sun was cooler and the crowds came
pouring onto the muck again.
A great deal of the old crowd were back But there were lots of new
ones too- Some of these men made passes at J&nic, and women
who didn't know took out after Tea Cake- Didn't take them
long to be put right, however Still and all, jealousies arose now
and then on both sides. When Mrs- Turner's brother came and
she brought him over to be introduced, Tea Cake had a brain-
storm. Before the week was over he had whipped Janie- Not
because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that
awful (car inside him- Being able to whip her reassured him in
possession- No brutal beating at all- He just slapped her around
a bit to show he was boss- Everybody talked about it next day in
the fields- It aroused a sort of envy in both men and women.
The way he petted and pampered her as if those two or three
face slaps had nearly killed her made the women see visions and
the helpless way she hung on him made men dream dreams-
"Tea Cake, you sho is a lucky man" Sop-de-Bottom told
him- "Uh person can see every place you hit her- Ah bet she
never raised her hand tuh hit yuh back, neither- Take some uh
dese oP rusty black women and dey would fight yuh all night
long and next day nobody couldn't tell you ever hit 'em. Dat*s
de reason Ah done quit beatin* mah woman- You can't make no
148 JBr Zotz Neale Humon
mark on 'cm at all. Lawd! wouldn't Ah love tuh whip uh tender
woman lak Janie! All bet she don't even holler. She jus* cries^ eh
"See dat! Mah woman would spread her lungs all over Palm
Beach County, let alone knock out mah jaw teeth. You don't
know dat woman uh mine. She got ninety-nine rows uh jaw teeth
and git her good and mad, she'll wade through solid rock up to
her hip pockets,"
"Mah Janie is uh high time woman and uscrex things. Ah
didn't git her outa de middle uh de road. Ah got her outa uh big
fine house. Right now she got money enough in de bank tuh buy
up dese ziggaboos and give 'em away,"
"Hush yo' moufl And she down heah on de muck lak any-
" Janie is wherever Ah wants tuh be, Dat's de kind uh wife she
is and Ah love her for it. Ah wouldn't be knockin* her around. Ah
didn't wants whup her last night, but oP Mis' Turner done sent
for her brother tuh come tuh bait Janie in and take her way from
me. Ah didn't whup Janie 'cause she done nothin'. Ah beat her
tuh show dem Turners who is boss. Ah set in de kitchen one day
and heard dat woman tell mah wife Ah'm too black fuh her. She
don't see how Janie can stand me."
"Tell her husband on her."
"Shucks! Ah b'lieve he's skeered of her,"
"Knock her teeth down her throat."
"Dat would look like she had some influence when she ain't.
Ah jus' let her see dat Ah got control,"
"So she live oflfe our money and don't lak black folks, huh?
CK. we'll have her gone from here befo' two weeks is up. Ah'm
goin' right off tuh all de men and drop rocks aginst her,"
"Ah ain't mad wid her for whut she done, 'cause she ain't
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4* 149
done me nothin' yet, Ah'm mad at her for thinkin\ Her and her
gang got tuh go,"
"Us is wid yuh, Tea Cake, You know dat already, Dat Turner
woman is real smart, accordin' tuh her notions, Reckon she done
heard 'bout dat money yo J wife got in de bank and she's bound
tuh rope her in tuh her family one way or another,"
"Sop, Ah don't think it's half de money as it is de looks, She's
color-struck, She ain't got de kind of uh mind yon meet every
day, She ain*t a fact and neither do she make a good story when
you tell about her,"
"Ah yeah, she's too smart tuh stay round heah, She figgers
we'se jus' nh bunch uh dumb niggers so she think she'll grow
horns, But dat's uh lie, She'll die butt-headed,"
Saturday afternoon when the work tickets were turned into
cash everybody began to buy coon-dick and get drunk, By dusk
dark Belle Glade was full of loud -talking, staggering men. Plenty
women had gotten their knots charged too. The police chief in
his speedy Ford was rushing from jook to jook and eating house
trying to keep order, but making few arrests, Not enough jail-
space for all the drunks so why bother with a few? All he could do
to keep down fights and get the white men out of colored town
by nine o'clock, Dick Sterrett and Coodemay seemed to be the
worst off. Their likker told them to go from place to place push-
ing and shoving and loud-talking and they were doing it.
Way after a while they arrived at Mrs. Turner's eating house
and found the place fall to the limit. Tea Cake, Stew Beef, Sop-
de-Bottom, Bootyny, Motor Boat and all the familiar crowd was
there, Coodemay straightened up as if in surprise and asked,
"Say, whut y'al) doin* in heah?"
"Eatin'," Stew Beef told him, "Dey got beef stew, so yon
know Ah'd be heah."
iC Wc all laks tuh take uh rest from our women folks' cookin'
150 Zora Ne&ic Hurston
once in uh while, so us all eatin 1 way from home tuhnight. Any-
how Mis' Turner got de best ok grub in town."
Mrs- Turner back and forth in the dining room heard Sop
when he said this and beamed-
"Ah speck you two last ones tuh come in is gointuh have tuh
wait for uh seat- Ah'm ail full up now"
"Dat's ail right," Sterrett objected. "You fry me some fish-
Ah kin cat dat standin' up- Cuppa coffee on de side-"
"Sling me up uh plate uh dat stew beef wid some coffee too,
please ma'am- Sterrett is jus* ez drunk ez Ah is; and if he kin eat
standin' up, Ah kin do de same-" Coodemay leaned drunkenly
against the wall and everybody laughed-
Pretty soon the girl that was waiting table for Mrs- Turner
brought in the order and Sterrett took his fish and coffee in his
hands and stood there. Coodemay wouldn't take his off the tray
like he should have-
"Naw, you hold it fuh me, baby, and iemme eat," he told the
waitress. He took the fork and started to eat off the tray-
"Nobody ain't got no time tuh hold yo* grub up m front uh
yo' face," she told Coodemay, "Heah, take it yo'self"
"You'sc right," Coodemay told her- "Gimme it heah- Sop
kin gimme his chear-"
"YouV uh lie," Sop retorted- "Ah ain't through and Ah
ain't ready tuh git up-"
Coodemay tried to shove Sop out of the chair and Sop
resisted- That brought on a whole lot of shoving and scrambling
and coffee got spilt on Sop- So he aimed at Coodemay with a
saucer and hit Bootyny Bootyny threw his thick coffee cup at
Coodemay and just missed Stew Beef- So it got to be a big fight.
Mrs- Turner came running in out of the kitchen- Then Tea Cake
got up and caught hold of Coodemay by the coilar-
"Looka heah, y'all, don't come in heah and raise no disturbance
Their Byes Were Watching God <^ 151
in de place. Mis* Turner is too nice uh woman fob dat. In fact, she's
more nicer than anybody else on de muck." Mrs. Turner beamed
on Tea Cake,
u Ah knows dat. All of us knows it. But Ah don't give uh
damn how nice she is. Ah got tuh have some place tuh set down
and eat. Sop ain*t gointuh bluff me, neither. Let *tm fight lak a
man. Take yo* hands off me, Tea Cake."
H Naw, Ah won't neither. You comin* on outa de place."
"Who gointuh make me come out?"
"Me, dat's who. Ah'm in heah, ain't Ah? If you don't want
tuh respect nice people lak Mrs. Turner, God knows you gointuh
respect me! Come on outa heah, Coodemay."
H Turn him loose, Tea Cake!" Sterrett shouted. "Dat's mah
buddy. Us come in heah together and he ain't goin* nowhere
until Ah go mahself."
"Well, both ofyuh is goin*! w Tea Cake shouted and fastened
down on Coodemay. Dockery grabbed Sterrett and they wrassled
all over the place. Some more joined hi and dishes and tables
began to crash.
Mrs. Turner saw with dismay that Tea Cake's taking them
out was worse than letting them stay in. She ran out in the back
somewhere and got her husband to put a stop to things. He came
in, took a look and squinched down into a chair in an off corner
and didn't open his mouth. So Mrs. Turner struggled into the
mass and caught Tea Cake by the arm.
"Dat's all right, Tea Cake, Ah 'predate yo J help, but leave
"Naw suh, Mis' Turner, Ah'm gointuh show 'em dey can't
come runnin 1 over nice people and loud-talk no place whilst
Ah'm around. Dey goin' outa heah!"
By that time everybody in and around the place was taking
sides. Somehow or other Mrs. Turner fell down and nobody
l£2 Zora Neale Hurston
knew she was down there under all the fighting, and broken
dishes and crippled up tables and broken-off chair legs and win-
dow panes and such things. It got so that the floor was knee -deep
with something no matter where you put your foot down. But
Tea Cake kept right on until Coodemay told him, "Ah'm wrong.
Ah'm wrong! TPall tried tuh tell me right and Ah wouldn't lissen*
Ah ain't mad wid nobody, Just tuh show y'all Ah ain't mad, me
and Sterrett gointuh buy everybody somethm' tuh drink. Ole
man Vickers got some good coondick over round Pahokee.
Come on everybody, Let's go git our knots charged * Everybody
got in a good humor and left.
Mrs. Turner got up off the floor hollering ft>r the police. Look
at her place! How come nobody didn't cali the police? Then she
found out that one of her hands was all stepped on and her fingers
were bleeding pretty peart. Two or three people who were not
there during the fracas poked thek heads in at the door to sympa-
thize but that made Mrs. Turner madder. She told them where to
go in a hurry. Then she saw her husband sitting over there in the
corner with his long bony legs all crossed up smoking his pipe.
"What kinda man is you, Turner? You see dese no count niggers
come in heah and break up mah place! How kin you set and see yo'
wife all trompled on? You ain't no kinda man at all. Yoti seen dat Tea
Cake shove me down! Yes you did! You ain't raised yo' hand tuh do
nothin' about it."
Turner removed his pipe and answered: "Yeah, and you see
how Ah did swell up too, didn't yuh? You tell Tea Cake he better
be keerful Ah don't swell up again." At that Turner crossed his
legs the other way and kept right on smoking his pipe.
Mrs. Turner hit at him the best she could with her hurt hand
and then spoke her mind for half an hour.
"It's a good thing mah brother wuzn't round heah when it
happened do he would uh kilt somebody. Mah son too. Dey got
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r 153
some manhood about 'em. Wc*se goirf back tuh Miami where
folks is civilized."
Nobody told her right away that her son and brother were
already on their way after pointed warnings outside the cafe. No
time for fooling around. They were hurrying into Palm Beach.
SheM find out about that later on.
Monday morning Coodemay and Sterrett stopped by and
begged her pardon profusely and gave her five dollars apiece. Then
Coodemay said, "Dey tell me Ah wuz drunk Sat'day night and
clownin' down. Ah don't 'member uh thing 'bout it. But when Ah
git tuh peepin* through mall likker, dey tell mc Ah'm uh mess."
Since Tea Cake and Janie had friended with the Bahaman workers
in the 'Glades> they, the "Saws,* had been gradually drawn into
the American crowd- They quit hiding out to hold their dances
when they found that their American friends didn't laugh at them
as they feared- Many of the Americans learned to jump and iiked
it as much as the "Saws." So they began to hold dances night
after night in the quarters, usually behind Tea Cake's house-
Often now, Tea Cake and Janie stayed up so late at the fire dances
that Tea Cake would not let her go with him to the field. He
wanted her to get her rest.
So she was home by herself one afternoon when she saw a
band of Seminoies passing by The men walking in front and the
laden, stolid women following them like burros. She had seen
Indians several times in the 'Glades, in twos and threes, but this
was a large party. They were headed towards the Palm Beach road
and kept moving steadily. About an hour later another party
appeared and went the same way Then another just before sun-
down. This time she asked where they were all going and at last
one of the men answered her.
"Going to high ground. Saw-grass bloom. Hurricane coming. "
Everybody was talking about it that night. But nobody was
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4^ 155
worried, The fire dance kept up till nearly dawn, The next day,
more Indians moved east, unhurried but steady Still a blue sky
and fair weather, Beans running fine and prices good, so the Indi-
ans could be, must be, wrong, You couldn't have a hurricane
when you're making seven and eight dollars a day picking beans,
Indians are dumb anyhow, always were, Another night of Stew
Beef making dynamic subtleties with his drum and living, sculp-
tural, grotesques in the dance, Next day, no Indians passed at all,
It was hot and sultry and Janie left the field and went home,
Morning came without motion, The winds, to the tiniest,
lisping baby breath had left the earth, Even before the sun gave
light, dead day was creeping from bush to bush watching man,
Some rabbits scurried through the quarters going east. Some
possums slunk by and dicir route was definite, One or two at a
time, then more, By the time the people left the fields the proces-
sion was constant, Snakes, rattlesnakes began to cross the quarters,
The men killed a few, but they could not be missed from the crawl-
ing horde, People stayed indoors until daylight. Several times dur-
ing the night Janie heard the snort of big animals like deer, Once
the muted voice of a panther, Going east and east, That night the
palm and banana trees began that long distance talk with rain, Sev-
eral people took fright and picked up and went in to Palm Beach
anyway. A thousand buzzards held a flying meet and then went
above the clouds and stayed,
One of the Bahaman boys stopped by Tea Cake's house in a
car and hollered. Tea Cake came out throwm' laughter over his
shoulder into the house.
"Hello Tea Cake*
"Hello 'Lias, You leaving Ah see,"
"Yeah man, You and Janie wanta go? Ah wouldn't give
nobody else uh chawnce at uh seat till Ah found out if you all had
anyway tub go,"
156 Zora Ncale Humon
"Thank yuh ever so much, lias. But we 'bout decided tuh
tt De crow gahn up, man."
"Dat ain't nothin\ You ain't seen de bossman gp up* is yuh?
Well all right now. Man, de money's too good on the muck. It's
liable tuh lair off by tuhmorrer. Ah wouldn't leave if Ah wnz you."
"Alah uncle come for me. He say hurricane warning out in
Palm Beach. Not so bad dere, but man, dis muck ts too low and
dat big lake is liable tuh bust."
"Ah naw, man. Some boys in dere now talkin' 'bout it. Some
of 'em been in de 'Glades fiih years. 'Tain't nothing but uh lil
blow. You'll lose de whole day tuhmorrer tryin* tuh git back out
"De Indians gahn east, man. It's dangerous."
*Dey don't always know. Indians don't know much uh
nothm\ tuh tell de truth. Else dey'd own dis country still. De
white folks ain't gone nowhere. Dey oughta know if it's danger-
ous. You better stay heah, man. Big jumpin' dance ruhnight right
heah* when it fair off."
lias hesitated and started to climb out, but his uncle wouldn't
let him. "Dis time tuhmorrer you gointuh wish you follow crow,"
he snorted and drove off. lias waved back to them gaily.
"If Ah never see you no mo' on earth, AMI meet you in
Others hurried cast like the Indians and rabbits and snakes
and coons. But the majority sat around laughing and waiting for
the sun to get friendly again.
Several men collected at Tea Cake's house and sat around
stuffing courage into each other's cars. Janie baked a big pan of
beans and something she called sweet biscuits and they all man-
aged to be happy enough.
Most of the great flame-throwers were there and naturally.
Their Eyes Were Watching God W> 157
handling Big John de Conquer and his works. How he had done
everything big on earth, then went up tuh heben without dying
atall Went up there picking a guitar and got all de angels doing the
ring-shout round and round de throne. Then everybody but God
and Old Peter flew off on a flying race to Jericho and back and
John de Conquer won the race; went on down to hell, beat the old
devil and passed out ice water to everybody down there. Some-
body tried to say that it was a mouth organ harp that John was
playing, but the rest of them would not hear that. Don't care how
good anybody could play a harp, God would rather to hear a gui-
tar. That brought them back to Tea Cake. How come he couldn't
hit that box a lick or two? Weil, all right now, make ns know it.
When it got good to everybody > Muck-Boy woke up and
began to chant with the rhythm and everybody bore down on
the last word of the line:
Yo' mama don't wear no Draws
Ah seen her when she took 'em Off
She soaked 'cm in zlcoHol
She sold 'em tuh de Santy Claus
He told her 'twas aginst de Law
To wear dem dirty Draws
Then Muck- Boy went crazy through the feet and danced
himself and everybody else crazy. When he finished he sat back
down on the fl<x>r and went to sleep again. Then they got to
playing Florida flip and coon-can. Then it was dice. Not for
money. This was a show-off game. Everybody posing his fancy
shots. As always it broiled down to Tea Cake and Motor Boat.
Tea Cake with his shy grin and Motor Boat with his face like a lit-
de black cherubim just from a church tower doing amazing
things with anybody's dice. The others forgot the work and the
158 4* Zora Ncale Hurston
weather watching them throw. It was art. A thousand dollars a
throw in Madison Square Garden wouldn*t have gotten any
more breathless suspense. It would have just been more people
After a while somebody looked out and said, "It ain't gitting
no fairer out dere. Believe Ah^ll git on over tuh mail shack."
Motor Boat and Tea Cake were still playing so everybody left
them at it.
Sometime that night the winds came back. Everything in the
world had a strong ratde, sharp and short like Stew Beef vibrat-
ing the drum head near the edge with his fingers. By morning
Gabriel was playing the deep tones in the center of the drum. So
when Janie looked out of her door she saw the drifting mists
gathered in the west—that cloud field of the sky—to arm them-
selves with thunders and march forth against the world. Louder
and higher and lower and wider the sound and motion spread,
mounting, sinking, darking.
It woke up old Okechobee and the monster began to roll in
his bed. Began to roll and complain like a peevish world on a
grumble. The folks in the quarters and the people in the big
houses further around the shore heard the big lake and won-
dered. The people felt uncomfortable but safe because there were
the seawalls to chain the senseless monster in his bed. The folks
let the people do the thinking. If the castles thought themselves
secure, the cabins needn't worry. Their decision was already
made as always. Chink up your cracks, shiver in your wet beds
and wait on the mercy of the Lord. The bossman might have the
thing stopped before morning anyway. It is so easy to be hopeful
in the day time when you can sec the things you wish on. But it
was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness
with the whole round world in his hands.
A big burst of thunder and lightning that trampled over the
Their Eyes Were Watching God 159
roof of the house. So Tea Cake and Motor stopped playing.
Motor looked up in his angel-looking way and said, "Big Massa
draw him chair upstairs."
"Ah'm giad y'all stop dat crap-shootin' even if it wasn't for
money," Janie said. "Ole Massa is doixi' His work now. Us
oughta keep quiet."
They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn't
use another part of their bodies, and they didn't look at anything
but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what
to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God.
Through the screaming wind they heard things crashing and
things hurtling and dashing with unbelievable velocity. A baby
rabbit, terror ridden, squirmed through a hole in the floor and
squatted off there in the shadows against the wall, seeming to
blow that nobody wanted its flesh at such a time. And the lake
got madder and madder with only its dikes between them and
In a little wind-lull, Tea Cake touched Janie and said, "Ah
reckon you wish now you had of stayed in yo' big house 'way
from such as dis, don't yuh>*
"Yeah, naw. People don't die till dey time come nohow,
don't keer where you at. Ah'm wid mah husband in uh storm,
"Thanky, Ma'am. But 'sposing you wuz tuh die, now. You
wouldn't git mad at me for draggin' yuh heah?"
"Naw. We been tuhgether round two years. If you kin see de
light at daybreak, you don't keer if you die at dusk. It's so many
people never seen de light at all. Ah wuz fumblin' round and God
opened de door."
He dropped to the floor and put his head in her lap. "Well then,
160 ^Br Zora Neale Hurston
Jame, you meant whut you didn't say, 'cause Ah never knowed yon
wuz so satisfied wid me iak dat. Ah kinda thought — w
The wind came back with triple fiiry, and put out the light
for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other
shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls
asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His.
They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were
As soon as Tea Cake went out pushing wind in front of hi m,
he saw that the wind and water had given life to lots of tilings that
folks think of as dead and given death to so much that had been
living things. Water everywhere. vStray fish swimming in the yard.
Three inches more and the water would be in the house. Already
in some. He decided to try to find a car to take them out of the
'Glades before worse things happened. He turned back to tell
Janie about it so she could be ready to go.
"Git our insurance papers tuhgether, Janie. Ah' 11 tote mah
box mahsclf and things lak dat."
"You got all de money out dc dresser di^wer, already?"
u Naw, git it quick and cut up piece off de tabie-cloth tuh
wrap it up in. Us liable tuh git wet tuh our necks. Cut uh piece
uh dat oilcloth quick ftih our papers. We got tuh go, if it ain't too
late. De dish can't bear it out no longer. "
He snatched the oilclodi off the tabic and took out his knife.
Janie held it straight while he slashed off a strip.
"Rut Tea Cake, it's too awful out dere. Maybe it's better tuh
stay heah in de wet than it is tuh try tuh — ™
He stunned the argument with half a word. "Fix," he said
and fought his way outside. He had seen more than Janie had.
Janie took a big needle and ran up a longish sack. Found some
newspaper and wrapped up the paper money and papers and thrust
them in and whipped over the open end with her needle. Before
Their Byes Were Watching God <Qp 161
she could get it thoroughly hidden in the pocket of her overalls,
Tea Cake burst in again-
"Tain't no cars, Janie-"
-Ah thought not? Whut we gointuh do now?"
"We got tuh walk-*
"In all dis weather, Tea Cake? Ah don't b'licve Ah could
make it out de quarters-"
"Oh yeah you kin- Me and you and Motor Boat kin all lock
arms and hold one Mother down- Eh, Motor?"
"He's sleep on de bed in yonder, w Janie said- Tea Cake called
"Motor Boat! You better git up from dereS Hcil done broke
loose in Georgy- Dis minute) How kin you sleep at uh time lak
dis? Water knee deep in de yard."
They stepped out in water almost to their buttocks and man-
aged to turn east- Tea Cake had to throw his box away, and Janie
saw how it hurt him- Dodging flying missiles, floating dangers,
avoiding stepping in holes and warmed on the wind now at their
backs until they gained comparatively dry land- They had to fight
to keep from being pushed the wrong way and to hold together-
They saw other people like themselves struggling along- A house
down, here and there, frightened cattle. But above all the drive of
the wind and the water- And the lake- Under its multiplied roar
could be heard a mighty sound of grinding rock and timber and
a wail- They looked back- Saw people trying to run in raging
waters and screaming when they found they couldn't, A huge
barrier of the makings of the dike to which the cabins had been
added was rolling and tumbling forward. Ten feet higher and as
far as they could see the muttering wall advanced before the
braced-up waters like a road crusher on a cosmic scale- The mon-
stropolous beast had left his bed- The two hundred miles an hour
wind had loosed his chains- He seized hold of his dikes and ran
162 Zora Ncak Hurston
forward until he met the quarters; uprooted them like grass and
rushed on after his supposed -to-be conquerors, rolling the dikes,
rolling the houses, rolling the people in the houses along with
other timbers. The sea was walking the earth with a heavy heel
a De lake is coming" Tea Cake gasped,
"De lake!" In amazed horror from Motor Boat, "De lake!"
"It's comin' behind us!" Janie shuddered, "Us can't fly,"
"But we still kin run," Tea Cake shouted and they ran. The
gushing water ran faster. The great body was held back, but rivers
spouted through fissures in the rolling wall and broke like day.
The three fugitives ran past another line of shanties that topped a
slight rise and gained a little. They cried out as best they couid,
"De lake is comin'P and barred doors flew open and others
joined them in flight crying the same as they went, "De lake is
comin'S" and the pursuing waters growled and shouted ahead,
"Yes^ Ah'm comin'S^ and those who could fled on.
They made it to a tall house on a hump of ground and Janie
said, "Less stop heah. Ah can't make it no further Ah'm done
"All of us is done give out," Tea Cake corrected, "We'se
goui' inside out dis weather, kill or cure," He knocked with the
handle of his knife, while they leaned their faces and shoulders
against the wall. He knocked once more then he and Motor Boat
went round to the back and forced a door, Nobody there,
"Dese people had mo' sense than Ah did," Tea Cake said as
they dropped to the floor and lay there panting, "Us oughta
went on wid 'Lias lak he ast me,"
"You didn't know" Janie contended, "And when yuh don't
know, yuh just don't know, De storms might not of come sho nuff,"
They went to sleep promptly but Janie woke up first. She
heard the sound of rushing water and sat up.
"Tea Cake! Motor Boat! De lake is tomin\ r "
Their Byes Were Watching God jB* 163
The lake was coming on. Slower and wider, but coining. It
had trampled on most of its supporting wall and lowered its front
by spreading. But it came muttering and grumbling onward like
a tired mammoth just the same.
"Dis is uh high tall house. Maybe it won't reach heah at all,"
Janie counseled. "And if it do, maybe it won't reach tuh dc
"Tame, I,ake Okechobee is forty miles wide and sixty miles
long. Dat's uh whole heap uh water. If dis wind is shovin' dat
whole lake disa way, dis house ain't nothin' nth swaller, Us better
go. Motor Boat!"
"Whut you want^ man>"
"De lake is comin'!"
"Aw, naw it 'tain't."
"Yes, it is so comin'! Listen! You kin hear it way off."
"It kin jus' come on. Ah '11 wait right here."
"Aw, get up, Motor Boat! Less make it tuh de Palm Beach
road. Dat's on uh fill. We'se pretty safe dere."
"Ah'm safe here, man. Go ahead if yuh wants to. Ah'm
"Whut you gointuh do if de lake reach hcah>"
"Go upstairs. "
"S'posing it come up dere>"
"Swim, man, Dat's all."
"Well, uh, Good bye, Motor Boat. Everything is pretty bad,
yuh know. Us might git missed of one 'nother. You sho is a grand
friend fuh uh man tuh have."
"Good bye, Tea Cake. Y'all oughta stay here and sleep, man.
No use in goin' off and leavin' me lak dis."
"We don't wanta. Come on wid us. It might be night time
when de water hem you up in heah. Dat's how come Ah won't
stay. Come on > man."
164 4tr Zora Nealc Hurston
"Tea Cake, Ah got tuh have mah sleep. Definitely."
"Good bye, then, Motor. Ah wish you all de luck. Goin' over
tuh Nassau fab dat visit widja when ail dis is over."
"Definitely, Tea Cake. Mah mama's house is yours."
Tea Cake and Janie were some distance from the house
before they struck serious water. Then they had to swim a dis-
tance, and Janie could not hold up more than a few strokes at a
time, so Tea Cake bore her up till finally they bit a ridge that led
on towards the fill. It seemed to him the wind was weakening a
little so he kept looking for a place to rest and catch his breath.
His wind was gone. Janie was tired and limping, but she had not
had to do that hard swimming in the turbulent waters, so Tea
Cake was much worse off. But they couldn't stop. Gaining the
fill was something but it was no guarantee. The lake was com-
ing. They had to reach the six-mile bridge. It was high and safe
Everybody was walking the filK Hurrying, dragging, felling,
crying, calling out names hopefully and hopelessly. Wind and rain
beating on old folks and beating on babies. Tea Cake stumbled
once or twice in his weariness and Janie held him up. So they
reached the bridge at Six Mile Bend and thought to rest.
But it was crowded. White people had preempted that point of
elevation and there was no more room. They could climb up one
of its high sides and down the other, that was all. Miles further on,
still no rest.
They passed a dead man in a sitti ng position on a hummock,
entirely surrounded by wild animals and snakes. Common dan-
ger made common friends. Nothing sought a conquest over the
Ahother man clung to a cypress tree on a tiny island. A tin
roof of a building hung from the branches by electric wires and
the wind swung it back and forth like a mighty ax. The man dared
Their Eyes Were Watching God 165
not move a step to his right lest this crushing blade split him
open. He dared not step left for a large rattlesnake was stretched
Ml length with his head in the wind. There was a strip of water
between the island and the fill, and the man clung to the tree and
cried for help.
"De snake won't bite yuh," Tea Cake yelled to him. "He
skcered tub go intuh uh coi3. Skeered hell be blowed away. Step
round dat side and swim off!"
Soon after that Tea Cake felt he couldn't walk anymore. Not
right away. So he stretched long side of the road to rest. Janie
spread herself between him and the wind and he closed his eyes
and let the tiredness seep out of his iimbs. On each side of the fill
was a great expanse of water like lakes — water fall of things living
and dead. Things that didn't belong in water. As far as the eye
could reach, water and wind playing upon it in fury. A large piece
of tar-paper roofing sailed through the air and scudded along the
fill until it hung against a tree. Janie saw it with joy. That was the
very thing to cover Tea Cake with. She could lean against it and
hold it down . The wind wasn't quite so bad as it was anyway. The
very thing. Poor Tea Cake!
She crept on hands and knees to the piece of roofing and
caught hold of it by either side. Immediately the wind lifted both of
them and she saw herself sailing of? the fill to the right, out and out
over the lashing water. She screamed terribly and released the roof-
ing which sailed away as she plunged downward into the water.
"Tea Cake!" He heard her and sprang up. Janie was trying to
swim but fighting water too hard. He saw a cow swimming
slowly towards the fill in an oblique line. A massive built dog was
sitting on her shoulders and shivering and growling. The cow
was approaching Janie. A tew strokes would bring her there.
"Make it tuh de cow and grab hold of her tail! Don't use yo'
feet. Jus' yo' hands is enough. Dat's right, come on!"
166 4^ Zora Neaie Mumon
Jame achieved the tail of the cow and lifted her head up
along the cow's rump, as far as she could above water. The cow
sunk a little with the added load and thrashed a moment in ter-
ror. Thought she was being pulled down by a gator. Then she
continued on. The dog stood up and growled like a lion > stiff-
standing hackles, stiff muscles, teeth uncovered as he lashed up
his fury for the charge. Tea Cake split the water like an otter,
opening his knife as he dived. The dog raced down the back-
bone of the cow to the attack and Janie screamed and slipped for
back on the tail of the cow, just out of reach of the dog's angry
jaws. He wanted to plunge in after her but dreaded the water,
somehow. Tea Cake rose out of the water at the cow's rump and
seized the dog by the neck. But he was a powerful dog and Tea
Cake was over- tired. So he didn't kill the dog with one stroke as
he had intended, But the dog couldn't free himself either. They
fought and somehow he managed to bite Tea Cake high up on
his cheek-bone once. Then Tea Cake finished him and sent him
to the bottom to stay there. The cow relieved of a great weight
was landing on the fill with Janie before Tea Cake stroked in and
crawled weakly upon the fill again,
Janie began to fuss around his face where the dog had bitten
him but he said it didn't amount to anything. "He'd uh raised
hell though if he had uh grabbed me uh inch higher and bit me
in mah eye. Yuh can't buy eyes in de store, yuh know." He
flopped to the edge of the fill as if the storm wasn't going on at
all. "Lemme rest awhile, then us got tuh make it on intuh town
It was next day by the sun and the clock when they reached
Palm Beach. It was years later by their bodies. Winters and win-
ters of hardship and suffering. The wheel kept turning round and
round. Hope, hopelessness and despair. But the storm blew itself
out as they approached the city of refuge.
Thek Eyes Were Watching God *fr 167
Havoc was there with her mouth wide open. Back in the
Everglades the wind had romped among lakes and trees. In the
city it had raged among houses and men. Tea Cake and Janie
stood on the edge of things and looked over the desolation.
"How kin Ah find uh doctor fuh yo' face in ail dis mcss>"
"Ain't got dc damn doctor tuh study 'bout. Us needs uh
place tnh rest.""
A great deal of their money and perseverance and they found
a place to sleep. It was just that. No place to live at all. Just sleep.
Tea Cake looked all around and sat heavily on the side of die bed.
"Well," he said humbly, "reckon you never 'spected tuh
come tuh dis when you took up wid me, didja?"
"Once upon uh time, Ah never 'spectcd nothing Tea Cakc >
but bein' dead from the standin' still and tryin' tuh laugh. But
you come Hong and made some thin' outa me. So Ah'm thankful
fuh anything we come through together. *
"Thanky, Ma'am. w
"You was twice noble tuh save me from dat dawg. Tea Cake,
Ah don't speck you seen his eyes lak Ah did. He didn't aim tuh
jus' bite me, Tea Cake. He aimed tuh kill me stone dead. Ah'm
never tuh fuhgit dem eyes. He wum't nothin' all over but pure
hate. Wonder where he come from?"
"Yeah, Ah did see 'im too. It wuz frightenin'. Ah didn't
mean tuh take his hate neither. He had tuh die uh me one. Mah
switch blade said it wuz him."
"Po' me, he'd tore me tuh pieces, if it wuzn't fuh you,
"You don't have tuh say, if it wuzn't fuh me, baby, cause
Ah'm beahy and then Ah want yuh tuh know it's uh man heah."
And then again Him~with-the-$quare-toe$ had gone back to his
house. He stood once more and again in his high flat house with-
out sides to it and without a roof with his soulless sword standing
upright in his hand. His paie white horse had galloped over waters,
and thundered over land. The time of dying was over. It was time
to bury the dead.
"Janie, us been in dis dirty, slouchy place two days now, and
dat's too much. Us got tuh git outa dis house and outa dis man's
town. Ah never did lak round heath*
"Where we goin\ Tea Cake? Dat we don't know. 1 '
"Maybe> we could go back up de state, if yuh want tuh go."
"Ah didn't say dat, but if dat is whut you — "
"Naw, Ah ain't said nothitt* uh de kind. Ah wuz tryin' not tuh
keep you outa yo* comfortable no longer'n you wanted tuh stay."
"If Ah'm tn yo* way—"
"Will you lissen at dis woman ? Me 'bout tuh bust mah
britches tryin' tuh stay wid her and she heah — she oughta be shot
"All right then, you name somethm' and we'll do it. We kin
give it uh poor man's trial anyhow."
"Anyhow Ah done got rested up and de bed bugs is done got
Their Byes Were Watching God 169
too bold round heah. Ah didn't notice when mahrcstwuz broke.
Ah'm goin' out and look around and see whut we kin do. Ah '11
give anydiing uh common trial."
"You better stay inside dis house and git some rest. 'Tain't
nothin' tuh find out dcrc nohow."
"But Ah wants tuh look and see, Janie. Maybe it's sonic
kinda work ftih mc tuh help do."
"Whut dey want you tuh help do, you ain't gointuh like it.
Dcy's grabbin* all de menfotks dey kin git dey hands on and
makin' 'em help bury dc dead. Dey claims dey's after dc unem-
ployed, but dey ain't bein* too particular about whether you V
employed or not. You stay in dis house. De Red Cross is doin' all
dat kin be done otherwise ftih de sick and de 'Afflicted."
"Ah got money on me, Janie. Dey can^t bother me. Ahyhow
Ah wants tuh go see how things is sho nuffi Ah wants tuh see if
Ah kin hear anything 'bout de boys from de 'Glades. Maybe dey
all come through all right. Maybe not"
Tea Cake went out and wandered around. Saw the hand of
horror on everything. Houses without roofs, and roofs without
houses. Steel and stone all crushed and crumbled like wood. The
mother of malice had trifled with men.
While Tea Cake was standing and looking he saw two men
coming towards him with rifles on their shoulders. Two white
men, so he thought about what Janie had told him and flexed his
knees to run. But in a moment he saw that wouldn't do him any
good. They had already seen him and they were too close to miss
him if they shot. Maybe they would pass on by. Maybe when they
saw he had money they would realize he was not a tramp.
"Hello, there, Jim," the tallest one called out. "We been
lookin' fiih you."
"Mah name ain't no Jim," Tea Cake said watchfully. "Whut
you been lookin' fhh me full? Ah ain't done no thin'. w
170 49p Zora Neak Hurston
u Dat ? s whut we want yuh fuh — not dom 1 nothio 1 . Come on
less go bury some uh dese heah dead folks. Dey ain't gittin'
buried fost enough."
Tea Cake hung back defensively. "Whut Ah got tuh do wid
dat? Ah'm uh workin' man wid money in mah pocket. Jus' got
blowed outa de 'Glades by de storm."
The short man made a quick move with his rifle. "Git on
down de road dere, suh! Don't look out somebody 'II be buryin'
you! G'wan in front uh me, suW
Tea Cake found that he was part of a small army that had
been pressed into service to clear the wreckage in public places
and bury the dead. Bodies had to be searched out, carried to cer-
tain gathering piaces and buried. Corpses were not just found in
wrecked houses. They were under houses, tangled in shrubbery,
floating in water, hanging in trees, drifting under wreckage.
Trucks lined with drag kept rolling in from the 'Glades and
other outlying parts, each with its load of twenty-five bodies. Some
bodies folly dressed, some naked and some in all degrees of
dishevelment. Some bodies with calm foces and satisfied hands.
Some dead with fighting faces and eyes flung wide open in won-
der. Death had found them watching, trying to see beyond seeing.
Miserable, sullen men, black and white under guard had to
keep on searching for bodies and digging graves. A huge ditch
was dug across the white cemetery and a big ditch was opened
across the black graveyard. Plenty quick-lime on hand to throw
over the bodies as soon as they were received. They had already
been unburied too long. The men were making every effort to
get them covered up as quickly as possible. But the guards
stopped them. They had received orders to be carried out.
"Hey, dere, y'all! Don't dump dem bodies in de hole lak dat!
Examine every last one of 'em and find out if they's white or black."
"Us got tuh handle 'em slow lak dat? God have mussy! In de
Their Eyes Were Watching God 171
condition they's in got tuh examine 'em? Whut difference do it
make 'bout de color? Dey ail needs buryin' in uh hurry"
"Got orders from headquarters- They makin' coffins fuh all
de white folks. 'Tain't nothin' but cheap pine, but dat's better' n
nothin \ Don't dump no white folks in de hole jus' so,"
"Whut tuh do 'bout de colored folks? Got boxes full dem too?"
"Nope- They cain't find enough of 'em tuh go 'round- Jus'
sprinkle plenty quick-lime over 'em and cover 'em up,"
"Shucks! Nobody can't tell nothin' 'bout some uh dese bodies,
de shape dey's in- Can't tell whether dey*s whke or black-"
The guards had a long conference over that. After a while
they came back and told the men, "Look at they hair, when you
cain't tell no other way- And don't iemme ketch none uh y'ail
dumpin' white folks, and don't be wastin' no boxes on coiored-
They's too hard tuh git holt of right now-"
"They's mighty particular how dese dead folks goes tuh
judgment," Tea Cake observed to the man working next to him.
"Look lak dey think God don't know notion' 'bout de Jim
lea Cake had been working several hours when the thought
of Janie worrying about him made him desperate- So when a
truck drove up to be unloaded he bolted and ran- He was
ordered to halt on pain of being shot at, but he kept right on and
got away He found Janie sad and crying just as he had thought.
They calmed each other about his absence then Tea Cake
brought up another matter.
"Janie, us got tuh git outa dis house and outa dis man's
town- Ah don't mean tuh work lak dat no mo'-"
"Naw, naw, Tea Cake- Less stay right in heah until it's all
over. If dey can't see yuh> dey can't bother yuh-"
"Aw naw. S'posin' dey come round searchin'? Less git outa
172 4Br Zora Ncale Humoii
"Where us goin\ Tea Cake?"
*De quickest place is de 'Glades, Less make it on back down
dere, Dis town is fall uh trouble and compellment,"
"But, Tea Cake, de hurricane wuz down in de 'Gkdes too.
It'll be dead folks tuh be buried down dere too,"
Teah, Ah know, Janie, but it couldn't never be !ak it 'tis
heah. In de first place dey been bringin' bodies outa dere all day
so it can't be but so many mo' tuh find. And then again it never
wuz as many dere as it wuz heah. And then too, Janie, de white
folks down dere knows us. It's bad bein' strange Diggers wid
white folks. Everybody is aginst yuh,"
"Dat sho is de truth, De ones de white man know is nice col-
ored folks, De ones he don't know is bad niggers," Janie said this
and laughed and Tea Cake laughed with her,
"Jank, Ah done watched it time and time again; each and
every white man think he know ail de GOOD darkies already. He
don *t need tuh know no mo' , So &r as he*s concerned, all dem he
don't know oughta be tried and sentenced tuh six months
behind de United States privy house at hard smellin\"
"How come de United States privy house, Tea Cake?"
"Well, you know Old Uncle Sam always do have de biggest
and de best uh everything. So de white man figger dat anything
less than de Uncle Sam's consolidated water closet would be too
easy. So Ah means tuh go where de white folks know me. An feels
lak uh motherless chile round heah "
They got things together and stole out of the house and
away. The next morning they were back on the muck. They
worked hard all day fixing up a house to live in so that Tea Cake
could go out looking for something to do the next day. He got
out soon next morning more out of curiosity than eagerness to
work. Stayed off all day. That night he came in beaming out
Their Eyes Were Watching God *fr 173
"Who you reckon Ah seen, Janie? Bet you can't guess. "
"Ah'll betcha uh fat man you seen Sop-de~ Bottom.**
"Yeah Ah seen him and Stew Beef and Dockery and 'Lias,
and Coodemay and Bootyny. Guess who else!"
"Lawd knows. Is it Stcrrettr"
"Naw, he got caught in die rush. 'Lias help bury him in Palm
Beach. Guess who else?"
"Ah gVan teli me, Tea Cake. Ah don't know. It can't be
"Dat's jus' who it is. Ok Motor! De son of a gun laid up in dat
house and slept and de lake come moved de house way off some-
where and Motor didn't know nothin' 'bout it till de storm wuz
"Yeah man. Heah we nelly kill our fool selves runnin' way
from danger and him lay up dere and steep and float on off!"
"Well, you know dey say luck is uh fortune."
"Dat's right too. Look, Ah got uh job uh work. Help clear-
in' up things in general, and then dey goin' build dat dike sho
nuff. Dat ground got to be cleared off too. Plenty work. Dey
needs mo' men even."
So Tea Cake made three hearty weeks. He bought another
rifle and a pistol and he and Janie bucked each other as to who
was the best shot with Janie ranking him always with the rifle. She
could knock the head off of a chicken- hawk sitting up a pine tree.
Tea Cake was a little jealous, but proud of his pupil.
About the middle of the fourth week Tea Cake came home
early one afternoon complaining of his head. Sick headache that
made him lie down for a while. He woke up hungry. Janie had his
supper ready but by the time he walked ftom the bedroom to the
table, he said he didn't b'lieve he wanted a thing.
"Thought you tole me you wuz hongry!" Janie wailed.
174 4M> Zora Ncalc Hurston
"Ah thought so too," Tea Cake said very quiedy and dropped
his head in his hands.
"But Ah done baked yuh uh pan uh beans/'
"Ah knows dey's good all right but Ah don't choose nothin'
now, Ah thank yuh, Janie."
He went back to bed. Way in the midnight he woke Janie up
in his nightmarish struggle with an enemy that was at his throat.
Janie struck a light and quieted him.
"Whut's de matter, honey?" She soothed and soothed. "You
got tuh tell rae so Ah kin feel widja. Lemme bear de pain long
widja, baby. Where hurt yuh, sugar?"
"SomethhV got after me in mah sleep, Janie." He all but
cried, "Tried tuh choke me tuh death. Hadn't been fah you Ah'd
"You sho wuz strainin' wid it. But you'se all right, honey.
He went on back to sleep, but there was no getting around
it. He was sick in the morning. He tried to make it but Janie
wouldn't hear of his going out at all.
"If Ah kin jus' make out de week," Tea Cake said.
"Folks wuz makin' weeks befo' you wuz born and they goin-
tuh be makin 5 'em after youV gone. Lay back down, Tea Cake.
Ah'm goin' git de doctor tuh come see 'bout yuh/*
"Aw ain't dat bad, Janie. Looka heah! Ah kin walk all over de
"But you'se too sick tuh play wid. Plenty fever round heah
since de storm."
"Gimme uh drink uh water befo' you leave, then."
Janie dipped up a glass of water and brought it to the bed.
Tea Cake took it and filled his mouth then gagged horribly, dis-
gorged that which was in his mouth and threw the glass upon the
floor. Janie was frantic with alarm.
Their Eyes Were Watching God 175
"Whut make you ack lak dat wid yo' drinkin' water, Tea
Cake? You ast me tuh give it tuh yah.' 5
"Dat water is somethin' wrong wid it. It nelly choke me tuh
death. Ah tole yuh somethin* jumped on me heah last night and
choked me. You come makin' out ah wuz drcamin\"
"Maybe it wuz uh witch ridin' yuh, honey. AMI see can't Ah
find some mustard seed whilst Ah's out. But Ah'm sho tuh fetch
de doctor when Airm come."
Tea Cake didn't say anything against it and Janie herself hur-
ried off. This sickness to her was worse than the storm. As soon
as she was well out of sight, Tea Cake got up and dumped the
water bucket and washed it clean. Then he struggled to the irri-
gation pump and filled it again. He was not accusing Janie of
malice and design. He was accusing her of carelessness. She
ought to realize that water buckets needed washing like every-
thing else. He'd tell her about it good and proper when she got
back. What was she thinking about nohow? He found himself
very angry about it. He eased the bucket on the table and sat
down to rest before taking a drink.
Finally he dipped up a drink. It was so good and cool! Come to
think about it, he hadn't had a drink since yesterday. That was what
he needed to give him an appetite for his beans. He found himself
wanting it very much, so he threw back his head as he rushed the
glass to his lips. But the demon was there before him, strangling,
killing him quickly. It was a great relief to expel the water from his
mouth. He sprawled on the bed again and lay there shivering until
Janie and the doctor arrived. The white doctor who had been
around so long that he was part of the muck. Who told the work-
men stories with brawny sweaty words in them. He came into the
house quickly, hat sitting on the left back comer of his head.
"Hi there, Tea Cake. What de hell's de matter with you? J
"Wisht Ah knowed, Doc tali Simmons. But Ah sho is sick."
176 j&P Zora Ncaie Hurston
"Ah, naw Tea Cake. 'Tain't a thing wrong that a quart of
coon -dick wouldn't cure. You haven't been gcttin' yo' right
likker lately, eh?" He slapped Tea Cake lustily across his back and
Tea Cake tried to smile as he was expected to do. But it was hard.
The doctor opened up his bag and went ix> work.
"You do look a little peaked, lea Cake. You got a tempera-
ture and yo' pulse is kinda off. What you been doin' here lately?"
"Nothin' 'cept workin' and gamin' uh little, doctah. But
look lak water done turn't aginst me."
"Water? How do you mean?"
"Can't keep it on mah stomach, at all."
Janie came around the bed full of concern.
"Doctah, Tea Cake ain't tellin' yuh everything lak he oughta.
We wuz caught in dat hurricane out heah, and Tea Cake over-
strained hisself swimmin' such uh long time and holdin' me up
too, and walkin' all dem miles in de storm and then befo' he
could git his rest he had tuh come git me out de water agin and
fightin' wid dat big ole dawg and de dawg bitin' 'im in de face
and everything. Ah been spectin' him tuh be sick befo' now."
"Dawg bit 'im, did you say?"
"Aw twudn't nothin' much, doctah. It wuz ail healed over
in two three days," Tea Cake said impatiendy. "Dat been over
uh month ago, nohow. Dis is somethin' new, doctah. Ah figgers
de water is yet bad. It's bound tuh be. Too many dead folks
been in it fuh it tuh be good tuh drink fuh uh long time. Dat's
de way Ah figgers it anyhow."
"All right, Tea Cake. Ah'll send you some medicine and tell
Janie how tuh take care of you. Anyhow, I want you in a bed by
yo'self until you hear from me. Just you keep Janie out of yo'
bed for awhile, hear? Come on out to the car with me, Janie. I
want to send Tea Cake some pills to take right away."
Their Eyes Were Watching God ^ 177
Outside he fombled in his bag and gave Janie a tiny bottle
with a few pellets inside.
"Give him one of these every hour to keep him quiet, Janie^
and stay out of his way when he gets in one of his fits of gagging
"How you know he's havin' 'em, doctah? Dat's jus' what Ah
come out hcah tuh tell yuh."
"Janie, Fm pretty sure that was a mad dawg bit yo' husband.
It's too late to get hold of de dawg's head. But de symptoms is all
there. It's mighty bad dat it's gone on so long. Some shots right
after it happened would have fixed him right up."
*You mean he's liable tuh die, doctah?*
"Sho is. But de worst thing is he's liable tuh suffer somethuV
awful befo' he goes."
"Doctor, Ah loves him fit tuh kill. Tell me anything tuh do
and Ah '11 do it."
"'Rout de only thing you can do, Janie, is to put him in the
County Hospital where they can tie him down and look after
"But he don't like no hospital at all He'd think Ah wuz tired
uh doin' fiih 'im, when God knows Ah ain't. Ah can't stand de
idea us tyin* Tea Cake lak he wuz uh mad dawg."
£ *It almost amounts to dat, Janie. He's got almost no chance
to pull through and he's liable to bite somebody else, specially
you, and then you'll be in die same fix he's in. It's mighty bad."
"Can't nothin* be done foh his case, doctah? Us got plenty
money in de bank in Orlandah, doctah. See can't yuh do some-
thin' special tuh save him. Anything it cost, doctah, Ah don't
keer, but please, doctah."
"Do what I can. Ah'H phone into Palm Beach right away
for the serum which he should have had three weeks ago. I'll
do all I can to save him^ Janie. But it looks too late. People in
178 fjp Zora Neale Hurston
his condition can't swallow water, you know, and m other ways
it's terrible. 7 *
Janie fooled around outside awhile to try and think it wasn*t
so. If she didn't see the sickness in his face she couid imagine it
wasn't really happening. Well, she thought, that big old dawg
with the hatred in his eyes had killed her after all. She wished she
had slipped off that cow-taii and drowned then and there and
been done. But to kill her through Tea Cake was too much to
bear. Tea Cake, the son of Evening Sun, had to die for loving her.
She looked hard at the sky for a long time. Somewhere up there
beyond blue ether's bosom sat He. Was He noticing what was
going on around here? He must be because He knew everything.
Did He mean to do this thing to Tea Cake and her? It wasn't any-
thing she could fight. She could only ache and wait. Maybe it was
some big tease and when He saw it had gone far enough He'd
give her a sign. She looked hard for something up there to move
for a sign. A star in the daytime, maybe, or the sun to shout, or
even a mutter of thunder Her arms went up in a desperate sup-
plication for a minute. It wasn't exactiy pleading, it was asking
questions. The sky stayed hard looking and quiet so she went
inside the house. God would do less than He had in His heart.
Tea Cake was lying with his eyes closed and Janie hoped he
was asleep. He wasn't. A great fear had took hold of him. What
was this thing that set his brains afire and grabbed at his throat
with iron fingers? Where did it come from and why did it hang
around him? He hoped it would stop before Janie noticed any-
thing. He wanted to try to drink water again but he didn't want
her to see him fail. As soon as she got out of the kitchen he meant
to go to the bucket and drink right quick before anything had
time to stop him. No need to worry Janie, until he couldn't help
it. He heard her cleaning out the stove and saw her go out back
to empty the ashes. He leaped at the bucket at once. But this time
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r 179
the sight of the: water was enough. He was on the kitchen floor in
great agony when she returned. She petted him, soothed him,
and. got him back to bed. She made up her mind to go see about
that medicine from Palm Beach. Maybe she could find somebody
to drive over there for it.
"Fee! better now, Tea Cake, baby chile?"
"Uh huh, uh little."
"Well, b'lieve AMI rake up de front yard. De mens is got
cane chewin\s and peanut hulls all over de place. Don't want de
doctah tuh come back heah and find it still de same."
"Don't take too long, Janie. Don't lak tuh be by mahself
when Ah'm sick."
She ran down the road just as fast as she could. Halfway to
town she met Sop- de -Bottom and Dockery coming towards her.
"Hello, Janie, how's Tea Cake?"
"Pretty bad off. Ah'm gointuh see "bout medicine fuh Mm
"Doctor told somebody he wuz sick so us come tuh see.
Thought somethin' he never come tuh work."
"Fall set wid 'im rill Ah git back. He need de company right
long in heah."
She fanned on down the road to town and found Dr. Sim-
mons. Yes, he had had an answer They didn't have any scrum but
they had wired Miami to send it. She needn't worry. It would be
there early the next morning if not before. People didn't fool
around in a case like that. No, it wouldn't do for her to hire no
car to go after it. Just go home and wait. That was all. When she
reached home the visitors rose to go.
When they were alone Tea Cake wanted to put his head in
Janie's lap and tell her how he felt and let her mama him in her
sweet way. But something Sop had told him made his tongue lie
cold and heavy like a dead lizard between his jaws. Mrs. Turner's
ISO Ifr Zora Neale Hurston
brother was back on the muck and now he had this mysterious
sickness. People didn't just take sick like this for nothing.
" Janie, whut is dat Turner woman's brother doin' back on de
"Ah don't know, Tea Cake. Didn't even knowed he wuz
"Accordin* tuh mah notion, you did. Whut you slip off from
me just now for?"
"Tea Cake, Ah don't lak you astin' me no sich question. Dat
shows how sick you is sho nuff. You'se jealous 'thout me givin' you
"Well, whut didja slip off from de house 'thout tellin' me you
wuz goin'. You ain't never done dat befo*."
"Dat wuz cause Ah wuz tryin' not tuh let yuh worry 'bout
yo' condition. De doctah sent after some mo' medicine and Ah
went tuh see if it come."
Tea Cake began to cry and Janie hovered him in her arms like
a child. She sat on the side of the bed and sort of rocked him back
"Tea Cake, 'tain't no use in you bein' jealous uh me. In de
first place Ah couldn't love nobody but yuh. And in de second
place, Ah jus' uh oie woman dat nobody don't want but you."
"Naw, you ain't neither. You only sound ole when you tell
folks when you wuz born, but wid de eye you'se young enough
tuh suit most any man. Dat ain't no lie. Ah knows plenty mo'
men would take yuh and work hard fuh de privilege. Ah done
heard 'em talk"
"Maybe so, Tea Cake, Ah ain't never tried tuh find out. Ah
jus' know dat God snatched me out de fire through you. And Ah
loves yuh and feel glad."
"Thank yuh, ma'am, but don't say you'se ole. You'se uh lil
girl baby all de time. God made it so you spent yo 5 ole age first
Their Byes Were Waiching God *fr 181
wid somebody else, and saved up yo' young girl days to spend
"Ah feel dat uh way too, Tea Cake, and Ah thank yuh fuh
"'Tain't no trouble tuh say whut's already so. You'se uh
pretty woman outside uh bein' nice."
"Aw, Tea Cake."
"Yeah you is too. Everytime Ah see uh patch uh roses uh
somethin' over spot tin' they selves makin' out they pretty, Ah tell
^m. 'Ah want yuh tuh see mah Janie sometime.' You must let de
flowers see yuh sometimes, heah, Janie?"
"You keep dat up, Tea Cake, Ah'll b'Heve yuh after while,"
Janie said archly and fixed him back in bed. It was then she felt
the pistol under the pillow. It gave her a quick ugly throb, but she
didn't ask him about it since he didn't say. Never had Tea Cake
slept with a pistol under his head before. "Neb' mind 'bout ail
dat cleanin' round de front yard," he told her as she straightened
up from fixing the bed. "You stay where Ah kin see yuh."
"All right, Tea Cake, jus' as you say."
"And if Mis' Turner's lap^legged brother come prowiin' by
heah you kin tell 'im Ah got him stopped wid four wheel brakes.
'Tain't no need of him standin' 'round watchin' de job."
"Ah won't be tellin' 'im nothin* 'cause Ah don't expect tuh
Tea Cake had two bad attacks that night. Janie saw a chang-
ing look come in his face. Tea Cake was gone. Something else
was looking out of his face. She made up her mind to be off after
the doctor with die first glow of day. So she was up and dressed
when Tea Cake awoke from the fitful sleep that had come to him
just before day. He almost snarled when he saw her dressed to go.
"Where are you goin', Janie?"
"After de doctor, Tea Cake. You'se too sick tuh be heah in dis
182 Zrora Ncale Hurst on
house 'thout de doctah. Maybe we oughta git yuh tuh de hospital. "
"Ah ain't goin' tuh no hospital no where. Put dat in yo* pipe
and smoke it Guess you tired uh waitin* on me and doing fuh
me. Dat ain't de way Ah been wid you. Ah never is been able tuh
do enough fuh yuh."
"Tea Cake> you'se sick. You'sc takin* everything in de way Ah
don't mean it* Ah couldn't never be tired uh waitin' on you.
Ah'm just skeered you'se too sick fuh me tuh handle. Ah wants
yuh tuh git well, honey. Dat's all."
He gave her a look full of blank ferocity and gurgled in his
throat. She saw him sitting up in bed and moving about so that
he could watch her every move. And she was beginning to feel
fear of this strange thing in Tea Cake's body. So when he went
out to the outhouse she rushed to see if the pistol was loaded. It
was a six shooter and three of the chambers were fall. She started
to unload it but she feared he might break it and find out she
knew. That might urge his disordered mind to action. If that
medicine would only come! She whirled the cylinder so that if he
even did draw the gun on her it would snap three times before it
would fire. She would at least have warning. She could either run
or try to take it away before it was too late. Anyway Tea Cake
wouldn't hurt her. He was jealous and wanted to scare her. She'd
just be in the kitchen as usual and never let on. They'd laugh over
it when he got well. She found the box of cartridges, however,
and emptied it. Just as well to take the rifle from back of the head
of the bed. She broke it and put the shell in her apron pocket and
put it in a corner in the kitchen almost behind the stove where it
was hard to see. She could outrun his knife if it came to that. Of
course she was too fussy, but it did no harm to play safe. She
ought not to let poor sick Tea Cake do something that would run
him crazy when he found out what he had done.
She saw him coming from the outhouse with a queer loping
Their Eyes Were Watching God *Sm 183
gait, swinging his head from side to side and his jaws clenched in
a funny way. This was too awful! Where was Dr. Simmons with
that medicine? She was glad she was here to look after him.
Folks would do such mean things to her Tea Cake if they saw
him in such a fix. Treat Tea Cake like he was some mad dog
when nobody in the world had more kindness about them. All
he needed was for the doctor to come on with that medicine.
He came back into the house without speakings in fact, he did
not seem to notice she was there and fell heavily into the bed
and slept. Janie was standing by the stove washing up the dishes
when he spoke to her in a queer cold voice.
"Janie, how come you can't sleep in dc same bed wid me
"De doctah told you tuh sleep by yo'self, Tea Cake. Don't
yuh remember him tellin' you dat yistiddy?"
"How come you ruther sleep on uh pallet than tuh sleep in
de bed wid mc^ Janie saw then that he had the gun in his hand
that was hanging to his side. "Answer me when Ah speak. "
"Tea Cake, Tea Cake, honey! Go lay down! Ah'll be too
glad tuh be in dere wid yuh de minute de doctor say so. Go lay
back down. He'll be he ah wid some new medicine right away"
"Janie, Ah done went through everything tuh be good tuh
you and it hurt me tuh mah heart tuh be ill treated lak Ah is."
The gun came up unsteadily but quickly and leveled at
Janie's breast. She noted that even in his delirium he took good
aim. Maybe he would point to scare her, that was all.
The pistol snapped once. Instinctively Janie *s hand flew
behind her on the rifle and brought it around. Most likely this
would scare him off. If only the doctor would come! If anybody
at all would come! She broke the rifle deftly and shoved in the
shell as the second click told her that Tea Cake's suffering brain
was urging him on to kill.
184 ^Br Zora Neale Hurston
"Tea Cake, put down dat gun and go back tuh bedf" Janie
yclJcd at him as the gun wavered weakly in his hand.
He steadied himself against the jamb of the door and Janie
thought to run into him and grab his arm, but she saw the quick
motion of taking aim and heard the click. Saw the ferocious look
in his eyes and went mad with fear as she had done in the water
that time. She threw up the barrel of the rifle in frenzied hope
and fear. Hope that heM see it and run, desperate fear for her life.
But if Tea Cake could have counted costs he would not have been
there with the pistol in his hands. No knowledge of fear nor rifles
nor anything else was there. He paid no more attention to the
pointing gun than if it were Janie's dog finger. She saw him
stiffen himself all over as he leveled and took aim. The fiend in
him must kill and Janie was the only thing living he saw.
The pistol and the rifle rang out almost together. The pistol
just enough after the rifle to seem its echo. Tea Cake crumpled as
his bullet buried itself in the joist over Janie 's head. Janie saw the
look on his face and leaped forward as he crashed forward in her
arms. She was trying to hover him as he closed his teeth in the
flesh of her forearm. They came down heavily like that. Janie
struggled to a sitting position and pried the dead Tea Cake's
teeth from her arm.
It was the meanest moment of eternity. A minute before she
was just a scared human being fighting for its life. Now she was
her sacrificing self with Tea Cake's head in her lap. She had
wanted him to live so much and he was dead. No hour is ever
eternity, but it has its right to weep. Janie held his head tightly to
her breast and wept and thanked him wordlessly for giving her
the chance for loving service. She had to hug him tight for soon
he would be gone, and she had to tell him for the last time. Then
the grief of outer darkness descended.
So that same day of Janie 's great sorrow she was in jail- And
Their Eyes Were Watching God 1&5
when the doctor told the sheriff and the judge how it was, they
all said she must be tried that same day- No need to punish her in
jail by waiting- Three hours in jail and then they set the court for
her case- The time was short and everything, but sufficient peo-
ple were there- Plenty of white people came to look on this
strangeness. And all the Negroes for miles around- Who was it
didn't know about the love between Tea Cake and Janie?
The court set and Janie saw the judge who had put on a
great robe to listen about her and Tea Cake, And twelve more
white men had stopped whatever they were doing to listen and
pass on what happened between Janie and Tea Cake Woods, and
as to whether things were done right or not- That was fanny
too- Twelve strange men who didn't know a thing about people
like Tea Cake and her were going to sit on the thing- Eight or
ten white women had come to look at her too- They wore good
clothes and had the pinky color that comes of good food- They
were nobody's poor white folks. What need had they to leave
their richness to come look on Janie in her overalls? But they
didn't seem too mad, Janie thought- It would be nice if she
could make them know how it was instead of those men folks -
Oh, and she hoped that undertaker was fixing Tea Cake up fine-
They ought to let her go see about it- Yes, and there was Mr-
Frescott that she knew right well and he was going to tell the
twelve men to kill her for shooting Tea Cake, And a strange man
from Palm Beach who was going to ask them not to kill her, and
none of them knew
Then she saw all of the colored people standing up in the
back of the courtroom- Packed tight like a case of celery, only
much darker than that- They were a)) against her, she could see,
So many were there against her that a light slap from each one of
them would have beat her to death. She felt them pelting her
with dirty thoughts- They were there with their tongues cocked
1S6 4p Zora Neale Hurston
and loaded., the oniy real weapon left to weak folks. The only
killing tool they are allowed to use in the presence of white folks.
So it was all ready after a while and they wanted people to talk
so that they could know what was right to do about Janie Woods,
the relic of Tea Cake's Janie . The white part of the room got calmer
the more serious it got, but a tongue storm struck the Negroes like
wind among palm trees . They talked all of a sudden and all together
like a choir and the top parts of their bodies moved on the rhythm
of it. They sent word by the bailiff to Mr. Preseotr they wanted to
testify in the case. Tea Cake was a good boy. He had been good to
that woman. No nigger woman ain't never been treated no better
Naw suh! He worked like a dog for her and nearly killed himself sav-
ing her tn the storm, then soon as he got a little fever from the
water, she had took up with another man. Sent for him to come
there from way off. Hanging was too good. All they wanted was a
chance to testify. The bailiff went up and the sheriff and the judge,
and the police chief, and the lawyers all came together to listen for a
few minutes, then they parted again and the sheriff took the stand
and told how Janie had come to his house with the doctor and how
he found things when he drove out to hers.
Then they called Dr. Simmons and he told about Tea Cake's
sickness and how dangerous it was to Janie and the whole town,
and how he was scared for her and thought to have Tea Cake
locked up in the jail, but seeing Janie's care he neglected to do it.
And how he found Janie ail bit in the arm, sitting on the floor and
petting Tea Cake's head when he got there. And the pistol right
by his hand on the floor. Then he stepped down.
"Any farther evidence to present, Mr. Prescott?" the judge
"No, Your Honor. The State rests."
The palm tree dance began again among the Negroes in the
back. They had come to talk. The State couldn't rest until it heard.
Thck Eyes Were Watching God 187
"Mistah Prescott, Ah got somethirT tuh say " Sop-de-Bottom
spoke out anonymously from the anonymous herd.
The courtroom swung round on itself to look.
"If you know what's good for you, you better shut your
mouth up until somebody calls you," Mr. Prescott told him
"Yassuh, Mr, Prescott. 7 *
"We are handling this case. Another word out of you > out of any
of you niggers back there,, and Pll bind you over to the big court.**
The white women made a little applause and Mr, Prescott
glared at the back of the house and stepped down. Then the
strange white man that was going to talk for her got up there. He
whispered a little with the clerk and then called on Janie to take
the stand and talk. After a few little questions he told her to tell
just how it happened and to speak the truths the whole truth and
nothing but the truth. So help her God,
They all leaned over to listen while she talked. First thing she
had to remember was she was not at home. She was in the court-
house fighting something and it wasn't death. It was worse than
that. It was lying thoughts. She had to go way back to let them
know how she and Tea Cake had been with one another so they
could see she could never shoot Tea Cake out of malice.
She tried to make them see how terrible it was that things
were fixed so that Tea Cake couldn't come back to himself until
he had got rid of that mad dog that was in him and he couldn't
get rid of the dog and live. He had to die to get rid of the dog.
But she hadn't wanted to kill him, A man is up against a hard
game when he must die to beat it. She made them see how she
couldn't ever want to be rid of him. She didn't plead to anybody.
She just sat there and told and when she was through she hushed.
She had been through for some time before the judge and the
ISS Zora Neale Hurston
lawyer and the rest seemed to know it. But she sat on in that trial
chair until the lawyer told her she could come down.
'The defense rests," her lawyer said. Then he and Prcscott
whispered together and both of them talked to the judge in
secret up high there where he sat. Then they both sat down.
"Gentlemen of the jury, it is for you to decide whether the
defendant has committed a cold blooded murder or whether she
is a poor broken creature, a devoted wife trapped by unfortunate
circumstances who really in firing a rifle bullet into the heart of
her iate husband did a great act of mercy, If you find her a wan-
ton killer you must bring in a verdict of first degree murder. If the
evidence does not justify that then you must set her free. There is
no middle course. w
The jury filed out and the courtroom began to drone with
talk, a few people got up and moved about. And Janie sat like a
lump and waited. It was not death she feared, It was misunder-
standing. If they made a verdict that she didn't want Tea Cake and
wanted him dead, then that was a real sin and a shame. It was
worse than murder. Then the jury was back again. Out five min-
utes by the courthouse clock.
"We find the death of Vergible Woods to be entirely acciden-
tal and justifiable, and that no blame should rest upon the defen-
dant Janie Woods,"
So she was free and the judge and everybody up there smiled
with her and shook her hand. And the white women cried and
stood around her like a protecting wall and the Negroes, with
heads hung down, shuffled out and away. The sun was almost
down and Janie had seen the sun rise on her troubled love and
then she had shot Tea Cake and had been in jail and had been
tried for her life and now she was free. Nothing to do with the lit-
tle that was left of the day bu t to visit the kind white friends who
had realized her feelings and thank them. So the sun went down.
Their Eyes Were Warching God 4? 189
She took a room at the boarding house for the night and
heard the men talking around the front
"Aw yon know dem white mens wuzn't gointuh do nothin >
tuh no woman dat look lak her "
"She didn't kill no white man, did she? Weil, long as she don't
shoot no white man she kin kill jus' as many niggers as she please."
"Yeah, de nigger women kin kill up all de mens dey wants
tuh, hut you bet' not kill one uh dem. De white folks will sho
hang yuh if yuh do."
"Weil, you know whut dey say 'uh white man and uh nigger
woman is de freest thing on earth.' Dey do as dey please."
Janie buried Tea Cake in Palm Beach. She knew he loved the
'Glades but it was too low for him to Me with water maybe washing
over him with every heavy rain. Anyway, the 'Glades and its waters
had killed him. She wanted him out of the way of storms, so she had
a strong vault built in the cemetery at West Palm Beach. Janie had
wired to Orlando for money to put him away. Tea Cake was the son
of Evening Sun, and nothing was too good. The Undertaker did a
handsome job and Tea Cake slept royally on his white silken couch
among the roses she had bought. He looked almost ready to grin.
Janie bought him a brand new guitar and put it in his hands. He
would be tiiinking up new songs to play to her when she got there.
Sop and his friends had tried to hurt her but she knew it was
because they loved Tea Cake and didn't understand. So she sent
Sop word and to all the others through him. So the day of the
funeral they came with shame and apology in their faces. They
wanted her quick forgetfiilness. So they filled up and overflowed the
ten sedans that Janie had hired and added others to the line. Then
the band played, and Tea Cake rode like a Pharaoh to his tomb. No
expensive veils and robes for Janie this time. She went on in her
overalls. She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief
Because they really loved Janie just a little less than they had loved
Tea Cake, and because they wanted to think well of themselves,
they wanted their hostile attitude forgotten. So they blamed it all
on Mrs. Turner's brother and ran him off the muck again. They'd
show him about coming back there posing like he was good look-
ing and putting himself where men's wives could look at him.
Even if they didn't look it wasn't his fault, he had put himself in
"Naw, Ah ain't mad wid Janie," Sop went around explaining.
"Tea Cake had done gone crazy. You can't blame her for puh-
tecthV herself. She wuz crazy 'bout 'im. Look at de way she put
him away. Ah ain't got anything in mah heart aginst her. And Ah
never woulda thought uh thing, but de very first day dat lap-
legged nigger come back heah makin' out he wuz lookin* fuh
work, he come astin' me 'bout how wuz Mr. and Mrs. Woods
makin' out. Dat goes tuh show yah he wuz up tuh something
"So when Stew Beef and Bootyny and some of de rest of 'em
got behind 'im he come runnin' tuh me tuh save 'im. Ah told 'im,
don't come tuh me wid yo' hair blowin' back, 'cause, Ah'm goin-
tuh send yuh, and Ah sho did. De bitches' baby!" That was
enough, they eased their feelings by beating him and running him
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4t 191
off. Anyway, their anger against Janie had lasted two whole days
and that was too long to keep remembering anything. Too much
of a strain.
They had begged Janie to stay on with them and she had
stayed a few weeks to keep them from feeling bad. But the muck
meant Tea Cake and Tea Cake wasn^t there. So it was just a great
expanse of black mud. She had given away everything in their lit-
tle house except a package of garden seed that Tea Cake had
bought to plant. The planting never got done because he had
been waiting for the right time of the moon when his sickness
overtook him. The seeds reminded Janie of lea Cake more than
anything else because he was always planting things. She had
noticed them on the kitchen shelf when she came home from the
funeral and had put them in her breast pocket. Now that she was
home, she meant to plant them for remembrance.
Janie stirred her strong feet in the pan of water. The tiredness
was gone so she dried them off on the towel.
"Now, dat's how everything wuz, Pheoby, jus' lak Ah told
yuh. So Ah'm back home agin and Ah'm satisfied tuh be heah.
Ah done been tuh de horizon and back and now Ah kin set heah
in mah house and live by comparisons. Dis house ain't so absent
of things lak it used tuh be befo' Tea Cake come along. It's full
uh thoughts, 'specially dat bedroom.
"Ah know all dem sittm-and-talkers gointuh worry they guts
into fiddle strings till dey find out whut we been talkin* 'bout. Dat*s
all right, Pheoby, tell 'em. Dey gointuh make 'miration 'cause mah
love dldn\ work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must
tell 'em dat love ain't somethin' lak uh grindstone dat's de same
thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch.
Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its
shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore."
192 Zora Ncak Humon
"Lawd! # Pheoby breathed out heavily, "Ah done growed ten
feet higher from jus' listenin' tuh you, Janie. Ah ain't satisfied
wid mahself no mo\ Ah means tuh make Sam take me fishin' wid
him after this. Nobody better not criticize yuh in mall hearin'."
"Now, Pheoby, don't feci too mean wid de rest of 'em 'cause
dey's parched up from not knowin' things. Dem meatskins is$ot
tuh rattle tuh make out they's alive. Let 'em consoiate theyselves
wid talk. 'Course, talkin' don't amount tuh uh hill uh beans
when yuh can't do nothin' else. And listenin' tuh dat kind uh talk
is jus' lak openin' yo' mouth and lettin' de moon shine down yo'
throat. It's uh known fact, Pheoby, you got tuh^ there tuh know
there. Yo' papa and yo' mama and nobody else can't tell yuh and
show yuh. Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves.
They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tub find out about livin'
There was a finished silence after that so that for the first time
they could hear the wind picking at the pine trees. It made
Pheoby think of Sam waiting for her and getting fretful. It made
Janie think about that room upstairs— her bedroom. Pheoby
hugged janie real hard and cut the darkness in flight.
Soon everything around downstairs was shut and fastened.
Janie mounted the stairs with her lamp. The light in her hand was
like a spark of sun-stuff washing her face in fire. Her shadow
behind fell black and headlong down the stairs. Now, in her
room, the place tasted fresh again. The wind through the open
windows had broomed out all the fetid feeling of absence and
nothingness. She closed in and sat down. Combing road-dust
out of her hair. Thinking.
The day of the gun, and the bloody body, and the court-
house came and commenced to sing a sobbing sigh out of every
corner in the room; out of each and every chair and thing. Com-
menced to sing, commenced to sob and sigh, singing and sob-
Their Eyes Were Watching God 4^ 193
bing. Then Tea Cake came prancing around her where she was
and the song of the sigh flew out of the window and lit in the top
of the pine trees. Tea Cake, with the sun for a shawl. Of course he
wasn't dead. He could never be dead until she herself had fin-
ished feeling and thinking. The kiss of his memory made pictures
of love and light against the wall. Here was peace. She pulled in
her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist
of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in
its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.
Zora Ncale Hurston:
l A Negro Way of Saying"
The Reverend Harry Middleton Hyatt, an Episcopal priest whose
five-volume classic collection, Hoodoo, Conjuration* Witchcraft,
and Rootwork, more than amply returned an investment of forty
years' research, once asked me during an interview in 1977 what
had become of another eccentric collector whom he admired. "I
met her in the field in the thirties. I think/' he reflected for a few
seconds, u that her first name was Zora. " It was an innocent ques-
tion, made reasonable by the body of confiiscd and often contra-
dictory rumors that make Zora Nealc Hurston 's own legend as
richly curious and as dense as are the black myths she did so much
to preserve in her classic anthropological works, Mules and Men
and Tell My Horse, and in her fiction.
A graduate of Barnard, where she studied under Franz Boas,
Zora Neale Hurston published seven books — four novels, two
books of folklore, and an autobiography — and more than fifty
shorter works between the middle of the Harlem Renaissance and
196 4k* Afterword
the end of the Korean War, when she was the dominant black
woman writer in the United States. The dark obscurity into which
her career then lapsed reflects her staunchly independent political
stances rather than any deficiency of craft or vision. Virtually
ignored after the eaiiy fifties, even by the Black Arts movement in
the sixties, an otherwise noisy and intense spell of black image- and
myth-making that rescued so many black writers from remain-
dered oblivion, Hurston embodied a more or less harmonious but
nevertheless problematic unity of opposites. It is this complexity
that refuses to lend itself to the glib categories of "radical" or "con-
servative," "black" or "Negro," "revolutionary" or "Uncle
Tom" — categories of little use in literary criticism. It is this same
complexity, embodied in her fiction, that, until Alice Walker pub-
lished her important essay ("In Search of Zora Neale Hurston") in
Afr. magazine in 1975, had made Hurston's place in black literary
history an ambiguous one at best.
The rediscovery of Afro-American writers has usually turned
on larger political criteria, of which the writer's work is suppos-
edly a mere reflection. The deeply satisfying aspect of the redis-
covery of Zora Neale Hurston is that black women generated it
primarily to establish a maternal literary ancestry. Alice Walker's
moving essay recounts her attempts to find Hurston's unmarked
grave in the Garden of the Heavenly Rest, a segregated cemetery
in Fort Pierce, Florida. Hurston became a metaphor for the black
woman writer's search for tradition. The craft of Alice Wafer,
Gayi Jones, Gloria Naylor, and Toni Cade Bambara bears, in
markedly different ways, strong affinities with Hurston's. Their
attention to Hurston signifies a novel sophistication in black lit-
erature: they read Hurston not only for the spiritual kinship
inherent in such relations but because she used black vernacular
speech and rituals, in ways subtle and various, to chart the com-
ing to consciousness of black women, so glaringly absent in other
black fiction. This use of the vernacular became the fundamental
framework for all but one of her novels and is particularly effec-
tive in her classic work Their Eyes Were Watching God > published
in 1937, which is more closely related to Henry James's The Por-
trait of a Lady and Jean Toomer's Cane than to Langston
Hughes's and Richard Wright's proletarian literature, so popular
in the Depression.
The charting of Janie Crawford's fulfillment as an autonomous
imagination, Their Eyesis a lyrical novel that correlates the need of
her first two husbands for ownership of progressively larger physical
space (and the gaudy accoutrements of upward mobility) with the
suppression of self-awareness in their wife. Only with her third and
last lover, a roustabout called Tea Cake whose unstructured frolics
center around and about the Florida swamps, does Janie at last
bloom, as does the large pear tree that stands beside her grand-
mother's tiny log cabin.
She saw a dust bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom;
the thousand sister calyxes arch to meet the !ove embrace and
the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch cream-
ing in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a
To plot Janie's journey from object to subject, the narrative of
the novel shifts from third to a blend of first and third person
(known as "free indirect discourse"), signifying this awareness of
self in Janie. Their Eyes is a bold feminist novel, the first to be
explicitly so in the Afro- American tradition. Yet in its concern with
the project of finding a voice > with language as an instrument of
injury and salvation, of selfhood and empowerment, it suggests
many of the themes that inspirit Hurston's oeuvre as a whole.
19S 4Rr Afterword
One of the most moving passages in American literature is Zora
Neale Hurston*s account of her fast encounter with her dying
mother, found in a chapter entided "Wandering" in her autobi-
ography. Dust Tracks on a Road (1942):
As I crowded in, they lilted up the bed and turned it around so
that Mama's eyes would face east. I thought that she looked to
me as the head of the bed reversed. Her mouth was slighdy
open > but her breathing took up so much of her strength that
she could not talk. But she looked at mc> or so I felt, to speak
for her. She depended on me tor a voice.
We can begin to understand the rhetorical distance that sepa-
rated Hurston from her contemporaries if we compare this passage
with a similar scene published just three years later in Black Boy by
Richard Wrigh^ Hurston 1 s dominant black male contemporary and
rival: "Once, in the night, my mother called me to her bed and told
me that she could not endure the pain, and she wanted to die. I held
her hand and begged her to be quiet. That night I ceased to react to
my mother; my feelings were frozen." If Hurston represents her
final moments with her mother in terms of the search for voice, then
Wright attributes to a similar experience a certain "somberness of
spirit that I was never to lose," which "grew into a symbol in my
mind, gathering to itself. . . the poverty, the ignorance, the helpless-
ness. . . Few authors in die black tradition have less in common
than Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright. And whereas Wright
would reign through the forties as our predominant author,
Hurston's feme reached its zenith in 1943 with a Saturday Review
cover story honoring the success of Dust Tracks, Seven years later, she
would be serving as a maid in Rivo Alto, Florida; ten years after that
she would die in the County Welfare Home in Fort Pierce^ Florida.
How could the recipient of two Guggenheim* and the
author of four novels, a dozen short stories, two musicals, two
books on black mythology, dozens of essays, and a prizewinning
autobiography virtually "disappear" from her readership for
tiiree foil decades? There are no easy answers to this quandary,
despite the concerted attempts of scholars to resolve it. It is
clear, however, that the loving, diverse, and enthusiastic
responses that Hurston *s work engenders today were not shared
by several of her influential black male contemporaries. The rea-
sons for this are complex and stem largely from what we might
think of as their "racial ideologies,"
Part of Hurston's received heritage— and perhaps the para-
mount received notion that links the novel of manners in the
Harlem Renaissance, the social realism of the thirties, and the
cultural nationalism of the Black Arts movement— was the idea
that racism had reduced black people to mere ciphers, to beings
who only react to an omnipresent racial oppression, whose cul-
ture is "deprived" where different, and whose psyches are in the
main "pathological. 1 * Albert Murray, the writer and social critic,
calls this "the Social Science Fiction Monster." Socialists, sepa-
ratists, and civil rights advocates alike have been devoured by
Hurston thought this idea degrading, its propagation a trap,
and railed against it* It was, she said, upheld by "the sobbing
school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given
them a dirty deal." Unlike Hughes and Wright, Hurston chose
deliberately to ignore this "false picture that distorted " Free-
dom, she wrote in Moses, Man of the Mountain, "was something
internal The man himself must make his own emancipation."
And she declared her first novel a manifesto against the "arro-
gance" of whites assuming that "black lives are only defensive reac-
tions to white actions." Her strategy was not calculated to please.
200 JSP Afterword
What wc might think of as Hurston's mythic realism, lush
and dense within a lyrical black idiom, seemed politically retro-
grade to the proponents of a social or critical realism. If Wright,
Ellison^ Brown, and Hurston were engaged in a battle over ideal
fictional modes with which to represent the Negro, clearly
Hurston lost the battle.
But not the wan
After Hurston and her choice of style for the black novel were
silenced for nearly three decades, what we have witnessed since is
clearly a marvelous instance of the return of the repressed. For Zora
Neale Hurston has been "rediscovered" in a manner unprece-
dented in the black tradition: several black women writers, among
whom are some of the most accomplished writers in America today,
have openly turned to her works as sources of narrative strategies, to
be repeated, imitated, and revised, in acts of textual bonding.
Responding to Wright's critique, Hurston claimed that she had
wanted at long last to write a black novel, and *not a treatise on
sociology," It is this urge that resonates in Toni Morrison's Sonj$ of
Solomon and Beloved, and in Walker's depiction of Hurston as our
prime symbol of "raciai health — a sense of black people as complete,
complex, undiminished human beings, a sense that is lacking in so
much black writing and literature." In a tradition in which male
authors have ardently denied black literary paternity, this is a major
development, one that heralds the refinement of our notion of tra-
dition: Zora and her daughters are a tradition -within-the-tradition,
a black woman's voice.
The resurgence of popular and academic readerships of Hur-
ston's works signifies her multiple canonization in the black, the
American, and the feminist traditions. Within the critical establish-
ment, scholars of every stripe have found in Hurston texts for all sea-
sons. More people have read Hurston's works since 1975 than did
between that date and the publication of her first novel, in 1934,
Rereading Hurston, I am always struck by the density of intimate
experiences she cloaked in richly elaborated imagery It is this con-
cern for the figurative capacity of black language, for what a char-
acter in Mules and Men calls "a hidden meaning, jus' like de Bible
,.,de inside mean in' of words/' that unites Hurston's anthropo-
logical studies with her fiction. For the folklore Hurston collected
so meticulously as Franz Boasts student at Barnard became
metaphors, allegories, and performances in her novels, the tradi-
tional recurring canonical metaphors of black culture. Always
more of a novelist than a social scientist, even Hurston*s academic
collections center on the quality of imagination that makes these
lives whole and splendid. But it is in the novel that Hurston's use
of the black idiom realizes its fullest effect. In Jonah*s Gourd Vim y
her first novel, for instance, the errant preacher, John, as described
by Robert Hemenway "is a poet who graces his world with lan-
guage but cannot find the words to secure his own personal
grace." This concern for language and for the "natural" poets who
"bring barbaric splendor of word and song into the very camp of
the mockers" not only connects her two disciplines but also makes
of "the suspended linguistic moment" a thing to behold indeed.
Invariably, Hurston's writing depends for its strength on the text,
not the context, as does John's climactic sermon, a tour de force of
black image and metaphor. Image and metaphor define John's
world; his failure to interpret himself leads finally to his self-
destruction. As Robert Hemenway, Hurston*s biographer, con-
cludes, "Such passages eventually add up to a theory of language
Using "the spy-glass of Anthropology," her work celebrates
rather than moralizes^ it shows rather than tells, such that "both
behavior and art become self-evident as the tale texts and
hoodoo rituals accrete during the reading." As author* she func-
tions as *a midwife participating in the birth of a body of folk-
lore, , , , the first wondering contacts with natural law," The
myths she describes so accurately are in fact "alternative modes
for perceiving reality," and never just condescending depictions
of the quaint, Hurston sees "the Dozens," for example, that
age-old black ritual of graceful insult, as* among other things, a
verbal defense of the sanctity of the family, conjured through
ingenious plays on words. Though attacked by Wright and vir-
tually ignored by his literary heirs, Hurston *s ideas about lan-
guage and craft undergird many of the most successful contribu-
tions to Afro-American literature that followed,
We can understand Hurston*s complex and contradictory legacy
more fully if we examine Dust Tracks on a Road, her own ton-
troversial account of her life, Hurston did make significant parts
of herself up, like a masqueradcr putting on a disguise for the
ball, like a character in her fictions. In this way, Hurston wrote
herself, and sought in her works to rewrite the "self " of "the
race*" in its several private and public guises > largely for ideolog-
ical reasons. That which she chooses to reveal is the life of her
imagination, as it sought to mold and interpret her environ-
ment. That which she silences or deletes, similarly, is all that her
readership would draw upon to delimit or pigeonhole her life as
a synecdoche of "the race problem,* an exceptional part stand-
ing for the debased whole.
Hurston's achievement in Dust Tracks \$ twofold. First, she
gives us a writer's life, rather than an account, as she says, of
"the Negro problem," So many events in this text are figured in
terms of Hurston's growing awareness and mastery of books
and language, language and linguistic rituals as spoken and writ-
ten both by masters of the Western tradition and by ordinary
members of the black community. These two "speech commu-
nities," as it were, arc Hurston's great sources of inspiration not
only in her novels but also in her autobiography
The representation of her sources of language seems to be her
principal concern, as she constantly shifts back and forth between
her "literate" narrator's voice and a highly idiomatic black voice
found in wonderful passages of free indirect discourse. Hurston
moves in and out of these distinct voices effortlessly, seamlessly,
just as she does in Their Eyes to chart Janie's coming to conscious-
ness. It is this usage of a divided voice, a double voice unrecon-
ciled, that strikes mc as her great achievement, a verbal analogue of
her double experiences as a woman in a male-dominated world
and as a black person in a nonbiack worid > a woman writer's revi-
sion of W. E. B. Du Bois's metaphor of Monbic-consciousness*
for the hyphenated African-American.
Her language, variegated by the twin voices that intertwine
throughout the text, retains the power to unsettle.
There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead
dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and rot-
ting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid
air of underground caves. The soul lives in a sickly air. People can
be slave-sMps in shoes.
Elsewhere she analyzes black "idioms" used by a culture
"raised on simile and invective. They know how to call names,"
she concludes, then lists some, such as 'gator-mouthed, box-
ankied, puzzle- gutted, shovei-footcd: "Eyes looking like skint-
ginny nuts, and mouth looking like a dishpan full of broke-up
Immediately following the passage about her mother's
death, she writes:
The Master- Maker m His making had made Old Death. Made
him with big, soft feet and .square toes. Made him with a face
that reflects the face of all things, but neither changes itself,
nor is mirrored anywhere. Made the body of death out of infi-
nite hunger. Made a weapon of his hand to satisfy his needs.
This was the morning of the day of the beginning of things.
Language, in these passages, is not merely ^adornment," as
Hurston described a key black linguistic practice; rather, manner
and meaning are perfectly in tune: she says the thing in the most
meaningful manner. Nor is she being "cute, n or pandering to a
condescending white readership. She is "naming* emotions, as she
says, in a language both deeply personal and culturally specific.
The second reason that Dust Tracks succeeds as literature
arises from the first: Hurston's unresolved tension between her
double voices signifies her full understanding of modernism.
Hurston uses the two voices in her text to celebrate the psycho-
logical fragmentation both of modernity and of the black Ameri-
can. As Barbara Johnson has written, hers is a rhetoric of division,
rather than a fiction of psychological or cultural unity. Zora
Neale Hurston, the "real" Zora Neale Hurston that we long to
locate in this text, dwells in the silence that separates these two
voices: she is both, and neither; bilingual, and mute. This strat-
egy helps to explain her attraction to so many contemporary crit-
ics and writers, who can turn to her works again and again only
to be startled at her remarkable artistry.
But the life that Hurston could write was not the life she could
live. In fact, Hurston's life, so much more readily than docs the stan-
dard sociological rendering, reveals how economic Urnks determine
our choices even more than docs violence or love. Put simply,
Hurston wrote well when she was comfortable, wrote poorly when
she was not. Financial problems— book sales, grants and fellowships
too few and too paltry, ignorant editors and a smothering patron—
produced the sort of dependence that affects, if not determines, her
style, a relation she explored somewhat ironically in "What White
Publishers Won't Print. * We cannot oversimplify the relation
between Hurston 's art and her life; nor can we reduce the complex-
ity of her postwar politics, which, rooted in her distaste for the patho-
logical image of blacks, were markedly conservative and Republican.
Nor can we sentimentalize her disastrous final decade, when
she found herself working as a maid on the very day the Saturday
Evening Post published her short story "Conscience of the Court"
and often found herself without money, surviving after 1957 on
unemployment benefits, substitute teaching, and welfare checks.
"In her last days," Hemenway concludes dispassionately, "Zora
lived a difficult life— alone, proud, ill, obsessed with a book she
could not finish,"
The excavation of her buried life helped a new generation read
Hurston again. But ultimately we must find Hurston's legacy in
her art, where she "ploughed up some literacy and laid by some
alphabets." Her importance rests with the legacy of fiction and
lore she constructed so carmiiy As Hurston herself noted, £s Rol!
your eyes in ecstasy and ape his every move, but until we have
placed something upon his street corner that is our own, we are
right back where we were when they filed our iron collar off?' If,
as a friend eulogized, "She didn't come to you empty," then she
does not leave black literature empty. If her earlier obscurity and
neglect today seem inconceivable, perhaps now, as she wrote of
Moses, she has "crossed oven"
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Works by Zora Neale Hurston
Jonah's Gourd Vine. Philadelphia: J. B. Upptncott, 1934.
Mules and Men. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1935.
Their Eyes Were Watching God. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippiocott,
Tell My Horse. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1938.
Moses y Man of the Mountain. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1939.
Dust Tracks on a Road. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1942.
Seraph on the Suwanee. New York: Charles Scrihner^s Sons, 1948.
I Love Myself When I Am Laughing . . . &Then Again When 1 Am
looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader
Edited by Alice Waiker. Old Westbury, N.Y.: The Feminist
The Sanctified Church. Edited by Tool. Cade Bambara. Berkeley:
Turtle Island, 1981.
Spunk; The Selected Short Stories of Zora Neale Hurston. Berkeley:
Turtle Island, 1985.
208 4ftr Selected Bibliography
Works About Zora Nealb Hurston
Baker, Houston A,, Jr, Blues > Ideology, and Afro-American Litera-
ture: A Vernacular Theory pp. 15-63, Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1984,
Bloom, Harold, ed, Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Chelsea
— , ed, Zora Neale Hurston^s ^Their Eyes Were Watching God**
New York: Chelsea House, 1987,
Byrd, James W, "Zora Neale Hurston; A Novel Folklorist Ten-
nessee Folk fare Society Bulletin 21 (1955): 37-41,
Cooke, Michael G, "Solitude: The Beginnings of Self "Realization
in Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison,"
In Michael G, Cooke, Afro-American Literature in the Twen-
tieth Century^ pp. 7.1-1 10. New Haven: Yale University Press.,
Dance, Daryl C, "Zora Neale Hurston." In American Women
Writers: Bibliographical Essays, edited by Maurice Duke, et ah
Westport, Conn,: Greenwood Press, 1983,
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. "The Speakeriy Text," In Henry Louis
Gates, Jr., The Signifying Monkey, pp. 170-217. New York:
Oxford University Press, 1988,
Giies, James K "The Significance of Time in Zora Neale
Hurston' s Their Eyes Were Watching God. v Negro American
Literature Forum 6 (Summer 1972): 52-53, 60,
Hemenway, Robert E, Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography
Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1977,
Holloway, Karla, The Character of the Word: The Texts of Zora
Neale Hurston. Westport, Conn,: Greenwood Press, 1987,
Holt, Elvin, "Zora Neale Hurston," In Fifty Southern Writers
After 19G0> edited by Joseph M. Flura and Robert Bain, pp.
259-69, Westport, Conn,: Greenwood Press, 1987,
Selected Bibliography ^ft 209
Howard, Liiiie Pearl. Zora Neale Hurston. Boston; Twayne, 1980.
— . "Zora Ncale Hurston." In Dictionary of Literary Biography,
vol. 51, edited by Trudier Harris, pp. 133-45. Detroit: Gale,
Jackson, Biyden. "Some Negroes in the Land of Goshen." Ten-
nessee Folklore Society Bulletin 19 (4) (December 1953):
Johnson, Barbara. "Metaphor, Metonymy, and Voice in Their
Eyes? In Black Literature and Literary Theory, edited by
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., pp. 205-21. New York: Methuen,
— . "Thresholds of Difference: Structures of Address in Zora
Ncale Hurston." In "Race* Writing and Difference, edited by
Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Jordan, June. "On Richard Wright and Zora Nealc Hurston."
Black Worldly (10) (August 1974): 4^8.
Knbitschck, Missy Dehn. * Tuh de Horizon and Back': The
Female Quest in Their Eyes** Black American Literature
Forum 17 (3) (Fall 1983): J09-15.
lionnet, Francoise. "Autoethnography: The Anarchic Style of
Dust Tracks on a Road? In Francoise Lionnet, Autobiograph-
ical Voices: Race, Gender, Self-Portraiture, pp. 97-1 30. Ithaca:
Cornel] University Press, 1989.
Lupton, Mary Jane, "Zora Neale Hurston and the Survival of the
Female." Southern Literary Journal 15 (Fall 1982): 45-54.
Meese, Elizabeth. "Orality and Textuaiity in Zora Neale Hurston's
IheirEyes" In Elizabeth Meese, Crossing the Double Cross: The
Practice of Feminist Criticism, pp. 39-55. Chapel Hill: Uni-
versity of North Carolina Press, 1986.
Newson, Adetc S. Zora Neale Hurston: A Reference Guide.
Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.
210 tfp Selected Bibliography
Rayson, Ann. * Dust Tracks on a Road: Zora Neale Hurston and
the Form of Black Autobiography." Negro American Litera-
ture Forum 7 (Summer 1973); 42-44.
Sheffey, Rnthe T., ed. A Rainbow Round Her Shoulder: The Zora
Neale Hurston Symposium Papers. Baltimore; Morgan State
University Press, 1982.
Smith, Barbara. "Sexual Politics and the Fiction of Zora Neale
Hurston." Radical TeacherH (May 1978): 26-30.
Stcpto, Robert B. From Behind the Veil Urbana: University of Illi-
nois Press, 1979.
Walker, Alice. "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston." Ms. y March
1975, pp. 74-79, 85-89.
Wall, Cheryl A. "Zora Neale Hurston-. Changing Her Own
Words." In American Novelists Revisited: Essays in Feminist
GriUcistfiy edited by Fritz Fleisclimann, pp. 370-93. Boston:
Washington, Mary Helen. "Zora Neale Hurston: A Woman Half
in Shadow." Introduction to I Lave Myself When I Am La m h-
in$ y edited by Alice Walker. Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist
— . " *1 Love the Way Janie Crawford Left Her Husbands': Zora
Neale Hurston's Emergent Female Hero." In Mary Helen
Washington, Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women,
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Willis, Miriam. "Folklore and the Creative Artist: Lydia Cabrera
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January 7, 1891 Bom in Eatonville, Florida, the fifth of eight
children, to John Hurston, a carpenter and
Baptist preacher, and Lucy Potts Hurston,
a former schoolteacher.
September 1917- Attends Morgan Academy in Baltimore,
June 1918 completing the high school requirements.
Summer 1918 Works as a waitress in a nightclub and a mani-
curist in a black-owned barbershop that serves
1918- 19 Attends Howard Prep School, Washington,
1919- 24 Attends Howard University; receives an asso-
ciate degree in 1920,
Publishes her first story, "John Redding Goes
to Sea * in the Stylus, the campus literary
212 flr Chronology
December 1924 Publishes "Drenched in Light,* a short story,
1925 Submits a story, "Spunk," and a play, Color
Struck^ to Opportunity's literary contest. Both
win second-place awards; publishes "Spunk"
in the June number
1925-27 Attends Barnard College, studying anthropol-
ogy with Franz Boas.
1926 Begins field work for Boas in Harlem.
January 1926 Publishes "John Redding Goes to Sea"
Summer 1926 Organizes Pin?/ with Langston Hughes
and Wallace Thurman; they publish only one
issue, in November 1926. The issue includes
August 1926 Publishes "Muttsy" in Opportunity
September 1926 Publishes "Possum or Pig" in the Forum.
September- Publishes "The EatonviUe Anthology" in
November 1926 the Messenger.
1927 Publishes The First One y a play, in Charles S.
Johnson's Ebony and Topaz.
Goes to Florida to collect folklore,
May 19, 1927 Marries Herbert Sheen,
September 1927 First visits Mrs, Rnfas Osgood Mason, seeking
October 1927 Publishes an account of the biack settlement
at St- Augustine, Florida, in the Journal of
Negro History; also in this issue; "Cudjo's
Own Story of the Last African Slaver"
December 1927 Signs a contract with Mason, enabling her to
return to the South to collect folklore,
1928 Satirized as "Sweetie Mae Carr" in Wallace
Thurman's novel abou t the Harlem Renais-
sance Infants of the Spring; receives
a bachelor of arts degree from Barnard-
January 1928 Relations with Sheen break off
May 1928 Publishes "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"
in the World Tomorrow.
1930-32 Organizes the Md notes that become
May-June 1930 Works on the play Mule Bone with
Publishes "Hoodoo in America" in the
Journal of American Folklore.
214 J&p Chronology
February 1931. Breaks with Langston Hughes over the
authorship of Mule Bone.
July 7, 1931 Divorces Sheen,
September 1931 Writes for a theatrical revue called Fast and
January 1932 Writes and stages a theatrical revue called
The Great Day y first performed on January 10
on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre;
works with the creative literature department
of Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, to
produce a concert program of Negro music,
1933 Writes "The Fiery Chariot,"
January 1933 Stages From Sun to Sun (a version of Great
Day) at Rollins College,
August 1933 Publishes "The Gilded Six-Bits" in Story.
1934 Publishes six essays in Nancy Cunard's anthol-
January 1934 Goes to Bethune-Cookman College to estab-
lish a school of dramatic arts "based on pure
Publishes Jonahs Gourd Yim> originally titled
$W ^%8^i it is a Book-of the-Month Club
Chronology *fi^ 215
Publishes "The Fire and the Cloud" in the
Singing Steel (a version of Great Day) per-
formed in Chicago.
Makes an abortive attempt to study for a
Ph.D in anthropology at Columbia University
on a fellowship from the Rmenwald Founda-
tion. In feet, she seldom attends classes.
Joins the WPA Federal Theatre Project as a
Mules and Men published.
Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study
West Indian Obeah practices.
In Haiti; writes Their Eyes Were Watching
God in seven weeks.
Returns to Haiti on a renewed Guggenheim,
Returns to the United States; Their Eyes Were
Watching God published, September 18.
Writes Tell My Horse; it is published the
216 <4BP Chronology
April 1938 Joins the Federal Writers Project in Florida to
work on The Florida Negro.
1939 Publishes "Now Take Noses' 1 in Cordially
June 1939 Receives an honorary Doctor of Letters
degree from Morgan State College,
June 27, 1939 Marries Albert Price III in Florida,
Summer 1939 Hired as a drama instructor by North Car-
olina College for Negroes at Durham; meets
Paul Green, professor of drama, at the Uni-
versity of North Carolina,
November 1939 Moses, Man of the Mountain published,
February 1940 Files for divorce from Price, though the two
are reconciled briefly
Summer 1940 Makes a folkiore-collecting trip to South Car-
Spring-July 1941 Writes Dust Tracks on a Road.
July 1941 Publishes "Cock Robin, Eeale Street" in the
Southern Literary Messenger.
October 1941- Works as a story consultant at Paramount
January 1942 Pictures,
July 1942 Publishes ^Story in Harlem Slang" tn the
September 5 > Publishes a profile of Lawrence Silas in the
1942 Saturday Evening Post.
November 1942 Dust Tracks on a Road published.
February 1943 Awarded the Anbfield Wolf Book Award in
Race Relations for Dust Tracks; on the cover
of the Saturday Review.
March 1943 Receives Howard University's Distinguished
May 1943 Publishes "The 'Pet Negro* Syndrome" in
the American Mercury,
November 1943 Divorce from Price granted,
June 1944 Publishes "My Most Humiliating Jim Crow
Experience" in the Negro Digest.
1945 Writes Mrs, Doctor; it is rejected by Lippincott.
March 1945 Publishes "The Rise of the Begging Joints" in
the American Mercury.
December 1945 Publishes "Crazy for This Democracy" in the
218 Jfr Chronology
1947 Publishes a review of Robert Tailanfs Voodoo
in New Orleans in the Journal of American
May 1947 Goes to British Honduras to research black
communities in Central America; writes Ser-
aph on the Suwanee; stays in Honduras until
September 1948 Falsely accused of molesting a tenyearoid
boy and arrested; case finally dismissed in
October 1948 Seraph on the Suwanee published.
March 1950 Publishes "Conscience of the Court" tn the
Saturday Evening Post> while working as a
maid in Bjvo Island, Florida.
April 1950 Publishes "What White Publishers Won't
Print" tn the Saturday Evening Post.
November I960 Publishes "I Saw Negro Votes Peddled" tn
the American Legion magazine.
Winter 1950-51 Moves to Belle Glade, Florida.
June 1951 Publishes "Why the Negro Won't Buy Com-
monism* in the American Legion magazine.
December 8 ,
Publishes "A Negro Voter Sizes Up Taft"
in the Saturday Evening Post.
Chronology tfr 219
1952 Hired by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the
Ruby McColium case.
May 1956 Receives an award for "education and
human relations" at Bethune-Cookman
June 1956 Works as a librarian at Patrick Air Force Base
in Florida; fired in 1957.
1957-59 Writes a column on "Hoodoo and Black
Magic" for the Fort Pierce Chronicle.
1958 Works as a substitute teacher at Lincoln Park
Academy, Fort Pierce.
Early 1959 Suffers a stroke.
October 1959 Forced to enter the St. l.Aicie County Welfare
January 28, 1960 Dies in the St. Ijacie County Weliare Home
of "hypertensive heart disease"; buried to an
unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly
Rest, Fort Pierce.
August 1973 Alice Walker discovers and marks Hurston's
Walker publishes "In Search of Zora Neale
Hurston * in Ms., launching a Hurston revival.